Review Summary: This is not an album of perfection. The album takes it's flaws and holds them at face value, just like so many other of 'The Greats' and thats what makes this album what it is...Pure, uncontrived human madness.
I'm going to open up this review by being quite outright, by saying that this album is in no way perfect and the production is certainly not perfect, but these imperfections are what gives this album it's stength. If the album was too harmonious, wasn't bleeding dissonance through every burst of brass and the production was of pristine condition, this album would be nowhere near as interesting.
The relatively short album, clocking in at roughly 30 minutes by my count, begins with the ever so lethargic 'Lethe' a 5 minute piece that floats along blissfully as if a cloud in a clear sky. The song begins with a long, drawn out, droning and repeating phrase of bells. I initially thought this odd, due to it's simplistic nature, especially coming from Toby Driver, the mastermind or mentalist (you decide) behind such work as Tartar Lamb, however soon soothing strings enter the equation and it all somehow seems trademark Driver without sounding old or rehashed. The piece features some lovely vocals by Driver, the most 'heartfelt' and 'sincere' since possibly his maudlin of the Well days in such fervent songs as 'Geography' or the end of 'Birth Pains...'. They also seem rather Gregorian-esque which is certainly no bad thing. Ocassional stabs of unusually sweet sounding violins also frequent this piece, almost as if slightly tugging the listener out of deep slumber.
And then the listener is abruptly woke to some rather theatrical black metal in the form of 'Rite of Goetic Evocation', in a most un-cliché way despite my cliché description of it's effect. Distorted and Lo-fi, enters sharp stabs of chords and some unusual brass lines...and something fans of Kayo Dot have been missing for a while. Brutal Vocals make a return for this album, fitting in with its 'Black Metal' theme as accredited by Driver himself. The Guitar seem's murky, the vocals disgustingly evil and the composition brilliant. Delayed bursts of high range guitar makes it's way through the clustered mix, coated in a swarm of delay in occasional trills, making for great effect. The piece reaches a 'slow' section in which it becomes brass led, with quiet and calm tremolo picked guitar underneath, bobbling bass lines and the occasional growl. And out of nowhere appears a dastardly tremolo picked guitar creating one of my favourite parts of this album. And then it ends, sadly.
'Mirror Water, Lightening Night' opens up with possibly one of the strangest passages in this album, in the form of a rather wierd brass line, followed by guitar, reprising phrases at sporadic intervals and generally dissolving into madness. It then breaks away into a quite frankly beautiful legato section, only intensified by the bass, drums, guitar, and the Toby's rather schizophrenic singing on this track. On this track, the singing is clean, and a wise decision it was to sing clean. The orchestration would be too cluttered already to throw ugly growls on top of the mix. Frequent whispers also make appearances at different points throughout the track. Reprising earlier themes, slower this time, and joined by vocals, this makes for one of the most unnerving points in the album. Myriads of harmonics lay underneath the mix, generally picking up the pace, until the track evolves into a dual between the brass and guitar. This continues until the end of the track.
The next song, 'Ocellated God' begins with about 25 seconds of feedback before a rather 'instant' drumbeat enters, and continues in the same vein until with a scrape of the strings, madness ensues. What can only be discribed as an 80's style Miami Vice cop show sax lead begins aided by Drivers shrieks, leads into my favourite part of the entire album. After this, the track slowsly dissolves and decays before the listener, into slow rumbles of the instruments and sharp shrieks of fairly stoccato vocals, before it gradually builds up to a great climax.
The album ends with 'Gamma Knife', a rather slow daunting piece solely for piano, guitar and vocals. The song seems to have no real direction, seems like pointless noodling and rather self indulgent, but I feel these make the song exceptional. The song is quite happy to float along without going anywhere in particular, and while it stays in this musical purgatory it also floats with great elegance and great beauty.
Overall, this album is disgustingly brutal and primitive at points, but also awe-inspiringly beautiful, conducted with true human emotions on the line, giving this album it's flaws, but also defining it as one of the greatest albums in a long time.