Though I'm familiar with their previous work, Celestia is not an artist that I've found a particular resonance with. They've always performed a rather straight shot of melancholic black metal, and a 15 year career has certainly thrown their name into many a hat, but I've always leaned towards the unorthodox transformations of Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega when craving my French fix. However, that may soon change, because Archaenae Perfectii, the band's third full-length offering, is a study in subtle contrasts which is likely to snare anyone with an appreciation for the softer side of this genre.
By 'soft', I don't mean to imply that the band have lost an edge. Their music is quite effective at reflecting an emptiness of spirit, but theirs is not the path of the errant, endless blasting or hollow pentagram that so many of their occult chasing peers distribute through the ether. Instead, Celestia's music is like the gentle sloshing of the tides, or the rolling of the wooded, gray hills to the limits of your view. Carefully scripted, glimmering streams of agony are woven through a pretty steadily intense rhythm section, and he record certainly dabbles in enough of a folkish atmosphere that it could appeal to not only fans of that sub-strata, but fans of flowing folk at large. I would even dub the music 'pleasant', but only through its aural presence, as the lyrics and aesthetic belie a more sinister current.
The clean guitar segments of this album are breathtaking, as in the better part of "Grandiohsia Obverturae/Vue Du Ciel" or the tranquil interlude "ArcheArcanae des Parfaits", and they segue strongly into an environment of ably produced aggressive clarity. Much of this is delivered at a digestible, moderate tempo, like the haunting march of "Nuit Qui Brille Comme Soleil" or the bleak, burrowing melody of "Demhiurghic Deity (Devilution)". But the band does often pick up the pace a notch, charging through landfills of sorrow like "Phoenemenae of Creation" and "Perfectii Ketter Katharos" just as eagerly as an emotional raptor sensing its next psychic kill. In fact, one of the strongest aspects of Archaenae Perfectii is just how well balanced its pacing is, and the modest length. 33 minutes for a black metal album of this nature is almost unheard of. Others performing in a comparable sphere would likely indulge and therefor gorge themselves fully under some misconceived notion that a longer album provides a more empty, engrossing experience.
Not Celestia. They've had their fill with you in just over a half hour's time, laying your drained husk very gently to the Earth, in tatters like a shed serpent's skin, while the phantasms drift off to their next feast. It's a wonderful thing, and really there are few if any faults to this record. The band may not be the most brazen or memorable when it comes to composing individual melodies, but this is not really the effect they seek. Instead, their work is subtler. Eating away at the fiber of your being with a slight shift in chords here. Sliding into a somewhat unexpected note there at the end of the passage over there. Like many of the best black metal efforts, Archaenae Perfectii is a soul-leeching duress. It grows further enchanting and succinct with successive spins. To date, I can't think of any Celestia album I've enjoyed to the extent of this, so its worth hunting for if you enjoy the calmer moments of a Blut Aus Nord, or perhaps earlier Agalloch before they became hipster-guzzled snowdrops.
Verdict: Win [8.25/10]