Artist: Spectral Lore
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Wow has Spectral Lore ever been busy these past few years. Starting in 2012, they have released a string of monstrous pieces. Starting with their third LP, Sentinel, my personal introduction to Spectral Lore, then following with two splits, the better of the two being the mind-blowing Sol, a concept album about space where Spectral Lore and the equally space-y Mare Cognitum each wrote one track and then co-wrote a third. To follow this up, there was the brilliantly titled III, their fourth album (obviously), which was nothing short of a triumph, cutting away some of more ambient work in favor of 90 minutes of pure atmospheric black metal greatness. Next, there was The Quivering Lights, a split with Nachtreich, a band that is less metal and more just gorgeous atmospheric music that occasionally leans on metal. Finally, to return to the ambience that Spectral Lore has been downplaying on their main releases, this year brings two EPs, one a pure ambient work meant to echo music made for space exploration, and finally, Gnosis. The reason why I had to address every single release since 2012 is because every single one of these releases was gold. In terms of pure quality, Spectral Lore is so consistent it’s amazing that they are able to create as much music as they do.
Gnosis is a 50-minute long work that Spectral Lore insists is still just an EP, and it is basically a meditation on Eastern music through the lens of metal instruments as well as a Western ear. What we are given is something that is evocative of Eastern sounds, but it has been transformed into something else. It has an epic and grand feel to it, capturing the seemingly endless history of the Eastern world. Surprisingly, the album artwork appears to be a woman of ancient Greek or perhaps Roman descent. It is in fact a fairly modern piece, painted in 1918 by John William Godward, a man who committed suicide after Picasso became popular and rendered his art obsolete. The woman is Lycinna, the famous lover of a Roman poet. We are left to ponder why this piece was chosen as the rather unique album art of what is still a metal album.
There is so much that could be said about this music, but at the same time, it is so ethereal that it resists description. It is an album that is meant to transport the listener to a time and place far from where they reside. The metal instrumentals are purely incidental to the music itself, which seems impossibly light considering the previous output of Spectral Lore. Even the heaviest of songs, A God Made of Flesh and Consciousness, fills you with something much different than the feelings normally unearthed by metal. Be very careful to listen deeply to Gnosis, otherwise you will entirely miss the vocals. They are buried so deep in the music and they sound more like the howling of the wind more than anything else. The two acoustic pieces are also very impressive, bringing in traditional Eastern instruments to really drive home the different sound.
I cannot say much more about this album; like most Spectral Lore releases, there is so much depth to this album that it is hard to fully grasp it. I remember having the same difficult with III, which was so long and complex that you could barely get a handle on it. Gnosis is brief by comparison, but it is still dense, complex music that requires many listens to fully appreciate. Anyone interested in Eastern sounds, experimental music, instrumental metal, or just Spectral Lore, definitely needs to pick this up. I know I will continue to listen to this over and over in the weeks and months to come.
Check ’em out here: https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/gnosis