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Checking out Akhlys’ entry in metal archives, I was surprised to discover that this year’s The Dreaming is actually the band’s second full-length, preceded by the dark ambient “Supplication” album of 2009. For those unfamiliar with the name, Akhlys is a project of Nightbinger’s Naas Alcameth, having just released their sophomore album “The Dreaming I” (a black metal one this time) via Debemur Morti. Graced with splendid cover artwork which represents hazily the band’s namesake goddess (of night and death mist), the release appears (and manages to be) grandiose and highly ominous.
The album spans five tracks, of which only the last one is completely ambient in character and essence, reminiscent of the band’s past. Yet, Naas Alcameth appears to have retained an ambient (in an abstract way) character throughout the album, evident in the structural forms of his music. The guitar sound is frigidly thin, its riffing hovering all around the listener, creating a nocturnal, but also deep-space-like atmosphere, not unlike Darkspace’s void voyages. Here can be traced the aforementioned ambient seed, in the minimalism and cold alienation of the guitar work, filtered through a production darkly. That is not to say that there aren’t more “traditional” parts of pure black metal nature (the early Emperor spirit permeates the album, especially if the excellent keyboard use is taken into account), and melody is flawlessly integrated in most of the album (check “The Dreaming Eye”). But the darkness of the void associated with the goddess Akhlys is never afar; and its torturous and inhuman aspect is fully revealed in the almost masochistic 17-minute “Consummation”, in which, repeating, mid-tempo, almost mechanical riffs create a chain of utter despair. This song is not creating a pleasant experience, and could be reduced in length – the album’s only flaw in my opinion. The vocals are evocative, serpentine, fluctuating in pitch, never staying on the foreground for long, drifting shadow-like.
I am not a major fan of Nightbringer, though I tend to enjoy portions of their work (and last year’s “Ego Dominus Tuus” was a winner). Akhlys’ album however clicked almost immediately. Its most abstract, ambient-like structure, not as dense and complex as in the mother-ship’s creations, manages to conjure almost effortlessly a spectral soundscape of the night void, one from which it is not easy for the listener to escape unwounded.