Review Summary: A cold, engulfing monolith.
Last year's The Voids We All Long For
was an interesting beast. Although the combination of ambient, folk, black metal and noise may not have been the most obvious of bedfellows, it yielded a fantastic selection of ideas which worked surprisingly well when used in conjunction with each other. While there are inevitably some
similarities between Lost Salt Blood Purges' most recent offering and Voids...
, this is undoubtedly its own creature - sparser, less vocally driven, yet more cohesive in the way each track interacts with each other, and arguably more effective on the whole for it.
Only The Youngest Graves
is long - about as long as a decent length film, breaching the 100 minute mark - and it does, admittedly, feel that way in parts. This isn't to say it's crushed under the weight of ambition, as many that find themselves extending over long periods of time fall into, but instead simply that it takes a committed listen that allows the listener to become utterly absorbed by everything. Arguably, Only...
is an album of two halves - the half prior to and including Lanthanesthai, and the half onwards from there. Whereas the first half is the more aggressive of the two, as consequence of harsher noise usage, it is also the more instantly engaging; there are more recognisable melodies and ostinati, a product of vaguely Native American sounding instrumentation combined with beautiful acoustic guitar work. The latter half, however, is the scarier. While all bar two of the last six tracks are upwards of 10 minutes, there's very little to actively latch on to while listening. 'Final Chant: Stygian Cessation' is an atmospheric, highly foreboding piece constructed largely of ambient crests and falls, and 'Dense Swells...' consists of largely the same, albeit with a strange, mechanical sound punctuating through at certain intervals. 'Lanthanesthai' and 'Noose in the Glow' are more abrasive, particularly the former, yet no less effective at creating an unsettling yet somehow fascinating soundscape. There are one or two length issues however, notably with 'Dense Swells...' and 'The Spirit Meets the Skin'; while both have interesting elements, both also outstay their welcome after a certain amount of time, becoming stale in their repetitive nature.
However, despite the split between the two halves there is one overriding characteristic that Only the Younger Graves
has, and that's the cold feeling that shrouds the vast majority of the running time (with one notable exception, which will be touched upon shortly). The sparse instrumentation is coupled with the monolithic running time to yield an experience that feels, without divulging in too much of personal interpretation, outwardly pretty yet lonely and somewhat vulnerable. The album's climax, however, provides a pleasant contrast to this otherwise bleak portrait painted with 'Blood Communication to the Port Saint', finishing on what feels like a thaw with warm crackles and pleasant, moving piano. As a finale it rounds off perfectly, providing not only the listener an aid to segue back into the real world, but also a direction that Voids
felt like it lacked slightly.
What Lost Salt Blood Purges have done here is improved upon their debut in terms of album progression, while ensuring that the obvious ability at trackwriting is preserved. The sheer size of it may prove a stumbling block for some, but if the listener is willing to give it the time and attention it deserves, they will be rewarded with an engulfing ambient record that's perfect for those quiet, dark nights.