Review Summary: II is not for those without patience; stretched to an hour and 17 minutes, the album is a musical expedition intended to be explored without distraction of thought. So lay down, close your eyes, and enjoy.5 of 6 thought this review was well written
Black metal – a genre which in itself is undefinable. Artists, such as Alcest, Amesoeurs, and Cold Body Radiation, have been trying to stretch what defines black metal for almost as long as they've been together. What's the purpose of church burning? How about making the production as terrible as possible? Why confine the genre to only grinding, fast, distorted guitars and a blast beat?
Take a hat, throw a bunch of black metal albums in it, pick any two, and compare them. Chances are – even if they are similarly classified – that they'll sound nothing alike. II
is a perfect example of this... in a single album. Granted, it has poor production. Granted, it has grinding, fast guitars, and a blast beat. Granted, churches may or may not have been burned in the making. Even with these elements, Spectral Lore still manages to redefine the limits of black metal.
Spectral Lore was formed in 2005 as the solo project of Nihilus Ayloss, member of Warbled Arma and Divine Element. With instruments (many times synthesized) such as horns, acoustic guitars, and sometimes pure ambiance, his music creates an intriguing atmosphere that draws you in. II
, his second release, keeps some of the dark ambient elements from I
while adding more frequent acoustic guitar sections and strongly melodic riffs.
Each song throughout the album is like a different portrait down a hall of antiquities. The music by its very nature is extremely artistic, bringing vivid images to mind – ones not dissimilar to the various album covers of the release. The album was originally released in 2007 as an edition of 50 CD's in a wooden box, re-released in 2008 cassette as an edition of 200, then again in 2010 as a CD, each time with new artwork. Each one of these shows II
in its essence; a dark, dreary, hopeless scene to journey in a state of reverie. The feeling of the album varies from shrouded mystery, to full-on brutal war mongering, to the dark depression found in the bulk of recent black metal, all ground together into a mournful, kvlt package. The best part? It works.
opens to an enigmatic acoustic piece, bringing a premonition of what's to come, setting an atmosphere of desolation and despair. This mood bleeds into the verbose “The Thorns that Guide my Warpath”, nearly reaching the 25-minute mark and encompassing a menagerie of genres. While seeming interminable at times, it's still a rather strong track that establishes a precedence which Introitus did not; KVLT!11!! The song goes out with looming synthesizer, which wanes to “Towards the Great Crossroad” in a subtle change of mood. Simplicity starts to take over here, as the song minimalistically progresses, with the same general riff for most of the song.
Similarly, “Leaving the Stars Far Behind”, the second shortest track on the album, sticks with the same general guitar riff with minor variations through the entire song, with some sparse synthesizer and sustained percussion. This song is a sort of turning point in the album, from the brutal black metal seen mostly in the second and third tracks to a much more melancholic mood. “The Drone's Journey, Recoiling Beneath the Waves” ensues, starting as a simple black metal piece and progressing to a pure dark ambient section, bearing much resemblance to I
.This eventually transitions into “Through an Infinite Dreamscape”, a piece with no percussion, but instead starting with a simple distorted riff leading into a looming acoustic piece.
Nearing the end of the album, the feelings of despair heighten – the feeling that the outro to this track brings can only be described as pure anguish. The penultimate track, “To Wither in Silence and Dismay”, broods upon the feelings in the previous song with more brutality, which broadens the contrast to the album's close. It ends with “Where Nature will not Ever Yield to Man”, a truly depressing song, leaving the listener in sorrow; the perfect closure to such an album.
I would recommend this album to everyone and anyone who is a fan of black metal. I will not recommend separate songs – the album is truly one cohesive composition with separate movements, intended to be together. Buy the album, put on your headphones, and listen; nothing more, nothing less.