Company: Paragon Records Release: 2008 Genre: Black Reviewer: Etiam
An absorbing album that somewhat lets down
Since Celestia's formation in the mid-90s, the band has been a respected presence in the modern French black metal scene, mainly from the strength of their demos and one live album. Their 2002 LP debut, 'Apparitia - Sumptuous Spectre', is a genre classic, and through re-releases in 2006 and '07 it garnered the band some mainstream attention. As such, it hardly seems six years since we've heard an LP of new material, but here it lies--'Frigidiis Apotheosia : Abstinencia Genesiis'.
At first blush, it seems that little has changed for Noktu and company, as this album features many of Celestia's most distinctive qualities--the gurgling vocals placed uncomfortably high in the mix, the strong basslines, and the arcane melodies that were the highlight of 'Apparatia...'. With a second spin, however, we begin to see the impact the past years have had on Noktu's writing.
To wit, the mood. Although minor key tremolo is still the order of the day for 'Frigidiis', which features identical production to 'Apparatia...', the new LP is ultimately gloomy rather than grandiose, more murky than melancholy. This new tone is set during the first interlude of the opening track, where the minor triads creep chromatically downwards, dispensing with the traditionally diatonic and nearly classical sense of melody Noktu has used in the past. (Some of that touch still shows, thankfully, during the refined acoustic interludes featured in some songs.) Though interesting in theory, this approach causes many tracks to feel plodding, and the positive momentum Noktu so easily invokes is cut short with frustrating regularity. One of the most successful stylistic integrations occurs during 'The Seed of Negation', where that same, deliberate kind of chord articulation is underpinned by shifting keyboards that support the song's tempo transition, if not necessarily its heavy-handed final lead.
Not helping the atmosphere are the programmed drums. For many bands, canned percussion is an unfortunate necessity, but it hardly seemed that the Celestia would lack for applicants; despite Noktu's best efforts and the presence of some cure-all ambiance, the tone of 'Frigidiis...' is certainly less regal than it could have been. Also, though Noktu's song titles have always a little perplexing ('A Cave Full of Bats'?), they now seem to be becoming remarkably more obtuse: 'A Regrettable Misinterpretation of Mournfulness' (in fact a regrettabley forgettable near-instrumental), 'Death of the Lizard Queen (Necro Phaanthasma)', etc. A song title faux-pas can be overlooked for quality music--'There Is 666 Trees in My Forest?--but since 'Frigidiis...' finds Noktu a little musically at odds, one feels more entitled to crack down on bizarre, potentially distracting lyrics.
Nonetheless, 'Frigidiis Apotheosia' is an absorbing album that does not besmirch the Celestia name. Given the band's towering reputation, it's only proper that their musical identity begin to expand along with their discography. It's just unlikely that traditionalist fans were quite prepared 'Frigidiis...', and despite its qualities one cannot help but feel somewhat let down.
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