Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Lunar Tombfields - The Eternal Harvest (2022)

The Eternal Harvest is a debut which throws you a curve ball up front: a beautiful, sparse ambient intro featuring ethereal female vocals straight and center, and not in the usual, pompous operatic manner, but much more folksy, honest and heartfelt. So the immediate question is how will the inevitable surge of black metal compare and contrast to this piece, and will they return to such calms throughout the course of this four track, 47 minute effort? The answer to the latter is simple, they do employ some lush, tranquil acoustic segments on some of the other tracks, but that vocal intro was singular. And as for the contrast, there is a level of beauty and melody to what this French duo creates, well balanced against these segues of lighter guitars, but the harsher and faster moments are quite gloomy, raw, spacious and washed-out.

This is a band that weaves a lot of melancholy into their riffing and vocal structures which sync up well to their moniker, the song titles, and the stunning Denis Forkas cover artwork, which is likely to remain one of my favorites of 2022. It's largely traditional black metal with the usual patterns of chords, battering blast beats and desperate, echoed rasping vocals, but the atmospheric aesthetics cultivate a lot of sorrow, desperation and mystique more so than any sinister Satanic vibe. The riffing is rather simplistic for the style, and often compelled by the drum fills, acoustic layers, swerving bass rhythms, and even a bit of spoken word woven alongside the rhythms of "A Dialogue with the Wounded Stars". While the note selections can often feel predictable or unchallenging, they are also stark and beautiful, and there is usually a melody or two buried in each of the lengthy tracks that offers a little more payoff. The drums have a very natural, organic impact to them, and it's all mixed rather fluidly so that the hints of the upper atmosphere flow seamlessly along to the rhythmic underbelly. And the sustained rasp vocals, which seem like an overloud whisper in spots, just add a leeching, suffering quality.

What captured me most throughout The Eternal Harvest is just how wistful, shadowy and drifting the experience can be, it hits that mood of longing and regret early on, and then lets it seep through you as if you were sitting in a chamber of dreary, golden haze, much like staring at its cover. Lunar Tombfields aren't long on originality perhaps, but they're exceptional at marrying restraint to effective, emotional moments that will let you stew in a sodden, dark nostalgia. Production is great, both of the music and the album packaging, and we've got yet another promising indulgence from a burgeoning French black metal scene which shows no end in sight to exploring and perhaps expanding the boundaries of that genre. This one isn't in your face with blissful, earworm melodies or blasting brutality, it's neither progressive nor particularly inventive, but it's subtlety and mood are its real strengths, lending the sort of timelessness that one will be able to value whenever one needs a whiff of sadness and sincere obscurity.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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