If there was ever such a thing as violent music, this band has mastered it. This is the third and final chapter in Elend's first trilogy, the Officium Tenebrarum. On the band's site, you can read liner notes for the concepts, which state that this trilogy tells the story of Paradise Lost; more specifically the fall and descent of Lucifer into Hell, however this shouldn't be viewed as something satanic. The storyline of the album is very interesting, especially when the band themselves have provided english translations and explanations on their official site. This album plays like a soundtrack to “Dante's Inferno”, only less humble.
First of all, this is a classical album. It alternates between two primary styles: the haunting, yet graceful piano, strings, and vocal driven areas, and the atonal, blaringly loud, chaotic hurricanes of hell areas. Elend’s past albums sound almost giddy in comparison. Rather than bathe the listener in a warm Romantic texture, The Umbersun attacks the listener with alienation, terror, and a dark undercurrent of Surrealism. The music consistently retains much of its ambience, but it's intensely dark and despondent here.
As far as the vocals go, they can be characterized by angelic soprano lines, male whispers, and terrifying shrieks. These shrieks are more frequent now than on previous albums, and blast the listen with furious intensity throughout this pallette de peur mortelle. The Umbersun also features an expansive choir, and Elend makes good use of it. The choir is best used in creating dissonance, such as in parts where the choir sings in contradictory vocal harmonies or just screams in derangement.
An example of the powerful pieces can be shown through the first song, Du Trefonds Des Tenebres. It starts before you're even ready, pounding your skull with lightning crashes, a flailing choir, and tortured yells. As the song progresses, the immense orchestra sound builds upon itself, each instrument providing it's own attack. You'd think this gets tired after 10 minutes, but in all honesty it somehow stays interesting, due to sudden breaks with subtle tremolo lines that burst into soaring synths lines mimicked by ghostly voices and whispers.
The softer pieces on the album make you question whether you should feel safe with the beautiful string parts, or whether you should keep from swallowing your tongue from the building of tension. This is most demonstrated by The Wake Of An Angel. It starts off with a quiet string section accompanied by a male and female speaking in despair. Suddenly 3 minutes have passed, and a piano runs through lush progressions with the man singing softly. Nearing the song's end you hear diminished, harsh whispers that silence the strings.
To put it simply, this album is dark…really dark. If you think "kvlt" black metal is evil then this too much for you and it will force (yes I said force) you to piss your pants. This is the kind of music HP Lovecraft would fall asleep to. It's aggressive, chaotic and generates a suffocating atmosphere of insanity and horror, and certainly won't be easy listening for most people. You may find yourself totally immersed in an aura of discord and dementia after the first song. This album is disturbingly convincing, and there is never a moment when you don't feel the total impact of the music. I kinda want to pop this sucker in at my prom…