Review Summary: Magnificent darkness
Undoubtedly one of the most relevant contemporary black metal artists, Naas Alcameth has been able to impregnate in each of his many projects a distinctive artistic fingerprint that has become a hallmark in the realm of modern darkness. Nightbringer, Akhlys, Bestia Arcana, Excommunion, and more recently Aoratos, all orbit (in one way or another) the same creative core which expresses itself through dark atmospheres that roam between dimensions of fear, terror, and darkness. Although there are many aesthetic similarities between his musical projects, Akhlys is a creature with a voice of his own, focused on the deep dimension of dreams within an esoteric context. All lyrics were inspired by certain dreams and parasomnia experiences Naas Alcameth has undergone over the years. The dark ambient aesthetic is also a distinctive element, even if they all share a strong atmospheric dimension. In fact, the debut album Supplicatio
n is, in essence, a dark ambient release with black metal nuances, while the modern classic The Dreaming I
reverses the approach by being a black metal album with dark ambient layers. The link between them, though tenuous, is in the frightening atmosphere which they both display, an ambiance that drifts between the terrifying dimensions of sleep.
Daughter of Persephone (wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld in Greek mythology), Melinoë is a frightening underworld goddess invoked in one Orphic Hymn*, bearer of nightmares and madness. An ancient Greek goddess of propitiation who was believed to wander the earth by night, striking fear into the hearts of men. Melinoë thus symbolizes the outlet for Naas' personal experiences while falling asleep, dreaming, or waking up. He refers to these experiences as seemingly inexplicable phenomena around nightmares and sleep paralysis that he constantly suffered during the beginning of his writing process. One of the conversations Naas had during one of these sleep paralysis episodes can be heard in the third track, 'Succubare', around 4:30.
*Hymn to Melinoë (translation by Apostolos Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow):
I call upon Melinoe, saffron-cloaked nymph of the earth,
whom revered Persephone bore by the mouth of the Kokytos river
upon the sacred bed of Kronian Zeus.
In the guise of Plouton Zeus and tricked Persephone and through wiley plots bedded her;
a two-bodied specter sprang forth from Persephone's fury.
This specter drives mortals to madness with her airy apparitions
as she appears in weird shapes and strange forms,
now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness
all this in unnerving attacks in the gloom of night.
O goddess, O queen of those below, I beseech you
to banish the soul's frenzy to the ends of the earth,
show to the initiates a kindly and holy face.
As soon as we dive into Akhyls' new nightmare we immediately run into Naas' distinctive high-pitched tremolo picking, which suggests Melinoë
will remain stylistically coherent with The Dreaming I
. This tremolo picking approach is undeniably Naas' trademark signature, transversal to all releases. The opener 'Somniloquy' and 'Ephialtes' are both examples where this technique manifests itself in all its splendor, the latter with an aesthetic very similar to Aoratos. As I mentioned before, the stylistic similarity between Naas' projects has been a constant in his trajectory, and Melinoë
is certainly no different. We encounter familiar resonances in every corner as if we were witnessing a cinematic sequel where we already know the cast and script. However, despite this familiarity, we remain enthusiastic about the storyline, letting ourselves be carried away by the terrifying plot.
As expected, dark ambient is omnipresent and a common denominator, 'Succubare' being its maximum exponent. This ambient track, besides having a strong symbolism as it mirrors Naas' disturbing episode, also serves as a bridge between the two halves of the album thus generating an important pause in the narrative. While the former features one of the most powerful choruses Naas has ever produced, the latter provides an epic conclusion to Melinoë
, swinging between dark ambiances and vicious blast beat incursions. The abrupt passage between the daunting introduction and the following blast beat nightmare is most definitely among the album's highlights.
The terrifying atmosphere surrounding the spiritual, mystical, and emotional narrative is overwhelming. The embodiment of Naas Alcameth's aesthetic expression is fully accomplished, not only musically but also by Dave Otero's sound engineering that manages to perfectly embody the musical concept. In this sense, the relationship between music and its spiritual dimension reaches a complete balance, thus fulfilling Melinoë's
In addition to being one of the best chapters Naas Alcameth has ever written, Melinoë
will surely be among the best metal releases of 2020. Everything about it is dark and terrifying, just like a shadowy presence that dwells secretly in our subconscious, always lurking, feeding on our most primal fears. It's the shadow that lies in a corner of our bedroom and under our bed. It's that malevolent presence that our rational self chooses to ignore because, in the end, it's all superstition, isn't it?