Review Summary: Pinpricks in the fabric of the skyMiserere Luminis
tells of a curious perspective: that of ancient beings who tire of their eternal existence and disdain divinity, even as they inhabit their own rarified plane; there, they remark on corruption of the celestial, indulge in talk of self-harm and self-loathing. Loftiness seems to characterize this work: not only because of its proud shirking of black metal conventions, but also because, more generally, it tackles the challenge of remaining sympathetic whilst aloof, of self-indulging in a justifiable manner.
different: most obviously, there are very few blast beats or tremolo riffs; the drumming is unusually weighty, almost lumbering at times; the chords, in their simple elegance, help to counterbalance the lyrical melodrama. A section of “Birth of New Ages” trades on eerie ambiguity, with a hint of sickening sweetness, before collapsing into punctuated chaos; “Senectus” and its sombre piano lead, meanwhile, demonstrate effective restraint, each note ringing out into the dark. In line with the theme of fading stars and dimming skies, “IV” features a gentle, chiming melody that suddenly dies out. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact way in which the album leaves behind space — perhaps it’s the general sense that individual notes are given room to breathe — but I can’t help but feel that it is unusually sparse for its genre. “Ciel Tragique” is a good example of how Miserere Luminis rely on subtle, minimalistic cues — syncopation that could have gone unnoticed because of the song’s slower pace, but ends up lending a slight groove to the drumming and rhythm guitar.
Thematically, Miserere Luminis deal rather unorthodoxly in the otherworldly, down to their intricate masks and insistence on anonymity. This is an elaborate, self-aware performance — an inhabiting of roles that may come off as ridiculous, and then twisting the melodrama into surprising beauty and tenderness. Each narrator within the spectacle can stake a claim to some form of divinity, but they do not possess its usual benefits — rather, they explore, understand and experience inhuman depths of suffering and decay. “I have seen what no eyes could see / I saw a world crumble down”, goes pained shrieking on “Birth of New Ages.” They even observe “[aeons-old] seraphs [who] fell from their thrones”; that they both witness and escape this fate is testament to their bizarre resilience.
Now, it remains that Miserere Luminis seem to glorify ugliness, pain and death in rather unsubtle ways; they employ a blunt rhetorical device in alluding to the perversion of that which is supposed to be eternal and Good. On “The Mist”, the narrator proclaims that he wants to “spit in the eye of God” and wishes He would “see him as the failure of his dream of greatness and beauty”, whilst “Ciel Tragique” speaks of the “broken wings of a sick angel” and an injury that is the “eye of hell.” It’s hard not to read these as a display of cliché, tired acts of rebellion, but perhaps that’s the point — “we are as tired as the stars”, says the funereal “Senectus” in a line that resonates in its resignation. The in-universe justification for all this, then, is that we should allow these beings who have suffered so much the small comfort of being able to lament as they wish. Despite their remarkable nature, they are passive — only seeing and receiving — but perceive themselves as corrupted despite never having explicitly sinned; their existence is both striking and pitiful.
But within the album, there’s a clear preservation of light and sweetness which cannot be immediately reconciled with its hyperbole. That act of preservation, I think, serves to capture a portion of the celestial essence that the beings mourn; and struck by such harmonious beauty, radiant even as darkness encroaches, we understand why one might be driven to madness and grief in witnessing its corruption. Furthermore, the exaggerated rhetoric sets up a dichotomy between celestial light and corrupting darkness, but also leaves a vast space in between; and it is this space that the melodies paint and manipulate, creating nuances that are hostage to neither light nor darkness.