While it's cover art might make you want to tear your own eyes with a salad fork, Firmament has a lot to offer the fan of simple, laid back, but beautiful atmospheric black metal. It's the debut of Australia's one man Midnight Odyssey, that sole composer being Dis Pater. While it may not come off as impressive initially, Dis Pater's ability to craft bleak sonic nightmares and imbue them with his bleating vocals (in the vein of Weakling or Burzum) is outstanding, and Firmament is an amazing debut album.
"From Forest to Firmanent" is a graceful indoctrination to the album's dark, starry sky as you sit aside an ocean of pain swept memories. Like most of the great atmospheric black metal albums of olde (In the Nightside Eclipse, Det Som Engang Var, Ravendusk in My Heart, etc.) it grasps your black heart and never lets go. Each track is gorgeous, glittering with sadness and pain. The breakdown at 2:40 of this song is magnificent, I could feel the tears welling up. How could a man create such sorrow? Suffer well, my friend. "Nocturnal Prey" creates almost an early 90s shoegazer atmosphere with its wailing stream of guitars, conjuring a starfall, the great dust of the heavens descending upon desolation. "Departing Flesh and Bone" is stunning, with yet another unforgettable moment of carefully crafted melody and shimmering synth. "A Host of Ghosts" is a synth piece, despite its lack of guitars the rival of any other track on this album. "As Dark and Ominous as Stormclouds" is again beautiful, but more bloodthirsty in its longing rhythms. "Salvation Denied" is slow, pondering, painful. "Storms of Fire and Ice" is another epic masterpiece of synth orchestration. And the album concludes with the inverse "From Firmament to Forest", which struggles to compete with all that came before but still comes out on top.
Firmament is as raw as any other cult black metal record, but it's a gorgeous type of raw. The name of this band could not be any more perfect at describing the style of composition. This album is hopeless and barren yet at the same time...full of longing, adventure....the very faint fire of life. It represents the very best of what a single individual can accomplish with an imagination and a basic knowledge of genre, and exactly which chords to pick out. Australia has produced two of the year's best black metal albums: Nazxul's Iconoclast, and this. The accolades I could rain upon this release seem to only grow with time, with each repeated listen the sorrow only grows. I could die to this album knowing what I know and what I don't, maintaing the endless equilibrium of human futility in a staggering, unforgiving universe.
Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]