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Despite metal’s obsession with occult aesthetics, its devotional aspect (a function of music that has extremely deep roots, while also being an integral part of religion and the occult) rarely goes beyond superficiality. This has obviously to do with the shock value use of occult in metal, as well as the genre’s highly individualistic and rebellious spirit (which is obviously intertwined with said shock value). In black metal the situation may well be somewhat different, owning to the genre’s obsession with the non-mundane and numinous, but still, it is not frequently that we listen to albums which feel genuinely devotional in nature.
The debut of Spain’s extravagantly named At the Altar of the Horned God is part of this minority: it feels as something created in honor of an other-than-human entity, not something craving to establish and highlight the artist’s persona through extravagance and extremity (though these two characteristics aren’t missing from the album).
Through Doors Of Moonlight’s 36 minutes contain highly diverse material: ritual ambient, darkwave rhythms and raw black metal orbit around the altar of the horned god of witches – the entity that is the centerpiece of the album. The infrequent guitar riffs are loosely defined and non-canonical, acting as censers that fumigate the temple with numinous atmosphere; they emit a highly tense and flickering drone that weaves through a haze created from percussion, diverse vocals and ambient keyboards. The percussion’s role is meaningful, diverse and crucial (just listen to Prayer II) transmitting highly organic ritual rhythms.
As for the album’s vocals (mostly from the mainman Heolstor, with a guest female performance from Maya in Malediction), they range from polyphonic chants, clean orations and beautiful melodic singing to black metal rasps. They are the main agents of melody, weaving the chaos into form. Heolstor’s accent and hue is of particular note, evoking memories of German darkwave (especially Deine Lakaien’s Alexander Veljanov) as well as Ulver; in particular Garm’s performance in Themes and Kveldssanger (just listen to the beginning of Perdition in the Oneness).
Through Doors Of Moonlight is a rich, diverse album transcending genres and discarding traditional structure, earning with its sword the avant-garde descriptor. A spectacular debut steeped with spirituality, best appreciated when the subconscious is given free reign.
Aesthetical and spiritual relatives: