If I would have made a most anticipated list for metal this would have been on a top 10. These guys are re-embracing their black metal roots after going in a more prog direction on the last one. The folk elements are also still intact. The female vocals that come in half way into the first song add to this element of their sound. This album is heavier in sound alone. The first song is like running into a wall. There is an Arcturus like melodrama to the cleaner male vocals, that provide a narrative or a weather report as a cold front was moving it when they recorded this one. Midway into the second song you have been with so many things it's hard to digest. There are blast beats and mournful string melodies which are the primary components along with the maniacally theatrical vocals. Not unlike a band such as Mr. Bungle, you are having so much thrown at you, until you begin to wonder if there is a good song buried beneath it all or is this is distract you from the fact there is not. It will take multiple listens for me to figure that out in regards to this album.
I like the fact this album seem darker than the previous releases. They ringing and clanging of their brand of black metal here is as sonic as it is metal, which is a majick phrase around these parts. They lock in like the gentlemen they claim to be and deliver some elegant punches, not far removed to the type of class Enslaved hammers into their songs. Some of the songs do tend to bleed together, sometimes this is due to the narrative style of the vocals rambling on and other cases it could almost be argued these are less songs and more movements. It's the very folk prog in the middle of "Virtus Sol Invicta" that helps add personality when they start moving into more Opeth territory. Sometimes the progressive elements lays so much on top of the grooves that they get a little lost in the cluster of guitar coming at you strummed and chugged, a more grandiose than ritualistic manner. The first half of the album closes with the bizarre "Proboscis" . The recorded some instruments forward and some backwards , you haven't heard anything like this before.
The second half of the album is broken down into a six part epic. The first part is "Mindslide" which is one of the moments where they remind me of the Gathering , not just because of the female vocals but because how they are used. psychedelic gets tossed around like a bong at a Phish show, but these guys have really tuned in and dropped out by the time they wind their way to "Have you got a Light " which has shades of Pink Floyd's Obscured by Clouds " to it.The rougher vocals sometimes seem like they need to catch their breath in the odd cookie monster manner they roar at you.They come across as more effect when set against the strum of clean guitar. It goes back into female vocals these remind me a little more of Carla from Sleepytime, though it rips into a much more metal section that sways between being a more folk inflected flavor. The more growled vocals still maintain that poetic narrative voice rather than giving into their dark side.They catch a pretty good groove on"An Automaton Adrift" , which builds up into the more black metal minded "Lowly Worm" that flows into it like it is just the build up of the same song , and in some ways it is as one is part four the part five.
The closing song has more in common with the Gathering than what you might traditionally expect from this band. While this is done is a more much straight ahead rock manner, listening to this song you never feel like this was done in order to gain radio airplay.This one took a lot of listens for me to get a handle on almost a week of them. But I am going to give it a 9.5 , only because sometimes the dramatic narrative of the male vocals grates on me at times , keeping it from being a perfect ten.