Review Summary: An uneven but entrancing record from one of blackgaze’s most tantalizing artists Beautiful Ghosts
is the sixth full-length from Canadian one-man project Unreqvited. This is a fairly impressive catalog in a brief time window, as the first of those records came out in 2016. Unreqvited’s discography can broadly be classified into the burgeoning blackgaze movement, and the project has carved out a niche, even while lurking in the second tier behind such stalwarts as Alcest, Lantlos, and Deafheaven.
The relative lightness of the sound of most blackgaze artists compared to “trve” black metallers has caused the newer movement to catch a fair amount of flack, but even by the standards of blackgaze Unreqvited lands firmly on the milder end. While black metal shrieks and guttural vocals aren’t misplaced, the project’s typical emphasis is much more on crafting majestic soundscapes, sometimes within the metal sphere and sometimes by leaning further towards post-rock, shoegaze, ambient, and prog. Beautiful Ghosts
is no exception to this tendency, and if anything this release sees the project sliding even further away from black metal orthodoxy.
Unreqvited’s biggest strength has always been the ability to sonically evoke a feeling or sensation, often with a style that approaches cinematic. Past works, at their finest, have left me drawn by the epically beautiful compositions to visions of fantastical locales and grandiose views. The flip side is that each of Unreqvited’s previous albums have also left me with the feeling that a few too many ideas were being crammed together, leading to an uneven tracklist and awkward flow between songs or segments. In the end, both these good and bad traits also make their appearances on this latest release, but overall this feels unusually cohesive and makes a solid argument for being Unreqvited’s best yet. While Unreqvited might still be trying to explore a little too much ground during the album’s runtime, the ideas largely come together and are well-executed.
Per the album’s Bandcamp page, Beautiful Ghosts
is thematically concerned with the concept of love, which is undoubtedly an under-appreciated focus in the world of metal and metal-adjacent music. Unreqvited’s penchant for stunning album artwork strikes again, and the music presented here reaches the romantic, colorful lushness hinted at by the cover. As is par for the course for this project, there’s a fair amount of musical diversity present in this album, in between the proggy opener “All Is Lost” and the pristine post-rock of the closer “All Is Found” is a rising and falling tide of various forms of metal, shoegaze, and ambient. Much of the record takes the form of soothingly twinkly passages, but metallic riffs are never far behind. Instrumental passages take precedence over vocals, but vocal sections are a mix of blackened shrieks and shoegaze-style clean vox. No review would be complete without throwing a mention to midpoint song “Funeral Pyre”, definitely the album's peak in this reviewer’s book, and a reminder of the sonic wonderment which can result when black metal, shoegaze, and post-rock are melded effectively.
I feel confident in saying that Beautiful Ghosts
won’t be Unreqvited’s answer to Sunbather
, or Ecailles De Lune
, or .neon
, that is, an album which proves transcendent enough to be recognized as a genre-defining work. To achieve that tall order, the album would need a bit more coherence as a whole than it reaches. Nonetheless, this is a great record which sees Unreqvited trend upwards, and is well worth a listen for anyone with a taste for blackgaze or any associated musical variants. I’ve long held that Unreqvited is perhaps the most tantalizing artist within the blackgaze scene, oozing with the potential to one day put it all together and release a distinctive masterpiece. This isn’t quite it, but also gives me no reason to give up hope.