Starless Domain

Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, August 23, 2019
Review Type: 

I did not know this band before, but Stu from Aesthetic Death invited me to this trio’s universe beyond an ever-devouring black hole, and once again I have to thank him (so here it is: thank you, Stu!). Anthony ‘AW’ (guitars, drums, bouzouki, backing vocals and mix), Jon ‘JR’ (bass and lead vocals) and Ash ‘AEF’ (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals and bouzouki) (1) did record a first official thing in 2018, called EOS. After the independent release via digital sources, Aesthetic Death created a physical edition on compact disc (three-folded digipack, no booklet, yet with intriguing artwork by Ice Key), and a partnership in between Pacific Threnodies and Black Horizons delivered a limited edition on cassette too.

[(1) The three of them are also the forces behind Twilight Falls, and formerly or currently active in other acts, together or apart, like Stellar Descent, Spektral Hatchery or Bleak, amongst others. Starless Domain arose ‘through gazing upon the night sky from the top of mountains, cosmic powers were absorbed through each member’s mind’s eye…’]

Shortly after, there was another lengthy one-tracker, released independently once more (called ALMA) (with a pressing on CD in the future via Aesthetic Death, I hope?!), soon after followed by a split with Tome Of The Unreplenished. For that split, which is called Epistolary Of The Fall, I will publish a review too in the (near) future, since this one has been released via Aesthetic Death as well.

This review deals with that first album, EOS, which actually comprises of one extremely lengthy piece, which lasts for almost one hour, and which is actually divided into four chapters. It brings ‘the vastness of deep space expressed through blasting black metal and chilling synthesizer’. And FYI, the whole thing was eventually mastered by no one else but Déhà. The title is named after the sister of Selene and Helios (ancient Greek mythology), being the goddess of sunrise and sundown, of dawn and the fading of light.

The experience starts very integer and deep, with a soft yet arousing semi-astral spacewave. After about one minute, a distant yet very wretched and painful scream appears (the kind of horrible scream that often characterises the DSBM scene, aggrieved and tormented), and this gets repeated again after half-a-minute, and again. In the meantime, cosmic, trippy and hallucinogenic soundscapes float on, accompanying the listener too a huge, borderless and unlimited dimension where formless spirits dance in the distance. Then, suddenly, a big bang, an explosion of cosmic power: merciless drum beats, oppressing droning synths, and sharp-edged, scratching strings, join the frenzy yells and torturous voices. EOS becomes a blackened journey through those vast dimensions of emptiness, nihilism and isolationism, speeding through portals of time and space, flashing, erupting, blasting.

But that pyroclastic energy gets interspersed by some subtle moments of, well, tranquillity might not be the correct terminology, but there are moments of feedback, rest, ease (in sound, not in atmosphere!). Some moments of relative quietness add a grim and claustrophobic ambience; it asphyxiates and shatters, but at the same time, it makes the listener reside, acquiesce in itself. Acoustic fragments and synth-driven intermezzi are like an indestructible glue in between harsh assaults of monumental strength.

As said, this thing was announced as one lengthy aural journey divided into four parts, but actually, they are so related, so familiar, and I would rather refer to this album as one huge sonic experience. All four of them, carefully separated by Acoustic / Ambient chapters, are like one colossal story, one coherent cinematic entirety, and these individual parts cannot be seen as separated fragments from each-other.

Notwithstanding a certain repetitive and repeating character, there is so much to experience on EOS, for this adventure permanently evolved, fades back, rises again, fades away once more, before resurrecting even stronger and more impressive than before. The whole of the time – and this goes for both harsh and serene (yeah, whatever) moments – every single fragment is multi-layered, vivid and copious in sound (so many levels of instruments, so many vocal approaches). Which easily brings me to the sound quality.

Well, that production is another expression of crushing usurpation and destructive demolishment. The whole sounds like an overpowering mishmash of noise with those many layers and levels of sound. But it’s the dense, impenetrable mix especially that crushes, that rapes the listener’s sweet eardrums mercilessly. It fits to the cataclysmic wall of noise for sure, strengthening the energetic massiveness. But if there is one tiny remark I have to make, well, that mix could be more balanced, I think. Sometimes you cannot exactly distinct the different voices or string arrangements, for the mix seems somewhat muddy. But as said, this isn’t but quibble from undersigned. Ignore this, please…

The trio calls their unique style, used right here, ‘Deep Field Black Metal’, which refers to a technique used in astronomy. This specific science ‘department’ makes use of long-time exposure in photography of the outer space, giving more detailed information of far-distant objects and constellations. That ‘deep field’ comparison surely fits to the sound of Starless Domain, for the EOS recording shows that colossal yet cohesively fragmented immensity through sonic sounds. It needs endurance and persuasion, but it is intoxicating and addictive once you’re ‘into’ this aural definition of prodigious infinity. A blackened trip through the Inner Eye for the brave and the wicked…