Reviews – 11 Days – BLABBERMOUTH.NET

Underground metal is full of surprises. SPECTRAL LORE have been among the most potent purveyors of atmospheric black metal over the last 20 years, with a steady succession of albums and EPs that have all received a rapturous reception from connoisseurs of this stuff. Sole member and mastermind Ayloss has built his reputation upon the raw savagery of his material, but also on this project’s propensity for an unnerving dark ambience that fills the vacuum between epic riffs and feral blasting like some alien, predatory ooze.

Conceptually inclined to ponder the great questions of life, nature, the cosmos and existence itself, SPECTRAL LORE are a great, cerebral antidote to black metal’s lazy nostalgia merchants. That contrast seems even more stark now. “11 Days” was originally released earlier this year, with the specific aim of raising money for refugee and migrant-aiding organizations. Ayloss has expressed his distaste at the European Union’s migration policies, and so “11 Days” is, in effect, a protest album, and one that tells the tale of a perilous journey across a great sea, just as real human beings are experiencing today. Admittedly, the protagonists in this story have certain mythical and supernatural interventions to consider and exploit, but the central thrust of Ayloss‘s narrative is self-explanatory, and his message of compassion and pro-active humanity is hard to argue with, unless the relentless shittiness of everything has genuinely broken your soul (in which case, fair enough).

Now reborn on CD and vinyl, “11 Days” continues the deft combination of frostbitten extremity and pitch-black ambience that reached a fervent peak on SPECTRAL LORE‘s 2021 full-length “Ετερόφωτος”. But perhaps due to the spontaneous, emotional nature of this particular project, these four lengthy tracks are less polished, and more tumultuous and chaotic, than their immediate predecessors. Evoking the immense power of the ocean, “Moloch” rolls in with a cyclone-like, psychedelic momentum; defiantly slow-paced and overwhelming in its rain-assailed intensity. When it eventually erupts into white-knuckle blasting, ghostly keyboards and shards of melancholic melody drift up from the melee.

For all its stoically DIY rawness, “11 Days” is a vast-sounding record with an even bigger heart. “Fortitude/Sunrise” is a meandering excursion into the darkest of droning ambience, with every hiss, whine, rumble and stutter perfectly placed to make the skin tingle. Both boldly cinematic and atmospherically abominable, it threads dread-filled drones, electronic chatter and sparse percussion together into a formless, bewitching cacophony with a serene, FLOYD-ian denouement. “Adro Onzi” brings SPECTRAL LORE back to their vicious, unrelenting blueprint. A 14-minute tirade that ebbs and flows with eerie fluidity, it hammers home the real-world meaning behind this music: “I can see the bodies of my people,” Ayloss howls, “A thousand leagues into the depths…”, as wave after wave of bitter, sub-zero riffing crashes around him. It’s such an intense piece of rabid brutality that the amorphous, mutant insanity of closing track “Tremor/Kalunga Line” comes as something of a relief. From billowing clouds of feedback and a gently ululating three-note mantra, to a slow-burning mirage of spaced-out electronics, the other side of SPECTRAL LORE‘s split personality is just as effective, and indicative of a wild and deep musical imagination. That would be a laudable quality anyway, but the humanitarian motivation behind this remarkable record puts it on another level entirely.


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