Release DetailsLABEL Paragon Records
RELEASED ON 1/30/2008
Frigidiis Apotheosia : Abstinencia Genesiis
posted on 6/2008 By:
Celestia is the project of Noktu, owner of Drakkar Productions and member of depressive French black metallers Mortifera along with Neige. The band has been around since 1995 but this is only their second full-length, their first coming out back in 2002. If you haven't heard of Celestia before this review (like me) you're to be forgiven, but you owe it to yourself to check them out now because this album is beautiful.
Celestia brands themselves ethereal black metal and that fits perfectly. This is atmospheric black metal with a gothic flair that never totally succumbs to gothic metal and stands apart from atmospheric black metal that doesn't touch on the romantic themes and moods that Celestia does. Describing the sound here is a little difficult, because the music works primarily on an emotional level for me, so an overuse of words like romantic, depressive, passionate and melancholic might seem like lazy writing, but they really get at the heart of what Frigidiis Apotheosia: Abstinencia Genesiis does for me: it stirs these emotions wonderfully.
So much black metal tries so hard to evoke strong emotions of despair and ennui and fails, that when a band truly succeeds I worry that perhaps I get so caught up in the excitement of having found something great that I assume the effects of the music to be greater than they actually are, but that's not the case here. Frigidiis Apotheosia... didn't grab me at all when I first spun it. There was zero excitement. In fact, I thought I was listening to an early Cradle of Filth record, heavy on the mid-tempo melancholic riffs and melodies, and too heavy on the emotive rasps, groans and wails that seem to dominate the mix. The word gothic was running through my head and despite enjoying the music, the whole thing felt a little forced and flat (both emotionally and in the production department).
But after more listens, it slowly started to blossom until one night when I put it on, poured myself another glass of wine, opened the curtains to the stars, felt a surge of darkness as a metal grimace grew and instantly I was sold. This really is a beautiful collection of romantically depressive songs, and it most definitely avoids all the negative trappings of everything "gothic" in mainstream heavy music these days. There are keyboards but they aren't overdone and there are plenty of strong melodies but they aren't forced and they aren't forcing emotions out of you. The first minutes of the opening track "She's Dead (Valse Funeste De Decomposition)" serves as a good example of the quality balance of styles to come. It opens with a simple drum beat, keyboards and a melodic guitar line that all ground Noktu's unique groaning which sounds horribly out of place before everything falls into step and these prominent ethereal elements complement great black metal elements, the whirlwind blasting and icy riffing working to anchor the emotional torture expressed in Noktu's vocals.
The production is warm and dense, a surprise for a black metal record. I have no problems with it, but still I think this style would be better suited with a colder sound. No problem though: the warmth gives plenty of room for ample use of keyboards and acoustics and Noktu's magic works very well in this space. The melodies and atmosphere created here are both wonderful, but Noktu's vocals really deserve the most attention. His delivery is varied and his unique high-pitched shriek seems able to capture a wide range of emotion: I think that's because his voice sounds so raw and throaty that I don't imagine a monster or devil; I imagine a real human being experiencing very real anguish. Noktu's clean wails layered over distant groans around the halfway mark of "Morbid Romance (Arcana VI Revisitae)" could have been laughable by a lesser vocalist, but here they sing beautifully.
This album does tend to feel musically monotonous, even with the band throwing in a long acoustic section in the nearly instrumental "A Regrettable Misinterpretation of Mournfulness," which builds for five minutes of its 6:34 length before Noktu enters with the drums. But taking the time to sit through Frigidiis Apotheosia... from start to finish creates such a melancholic, grim atmosphere that I can't fault the band for doing just one thing when they succeed so well in playing their ethereal black metal. Just listen to "Admirable Eros Abstraction" or especially "Death of the Lizard Queen (Necro Phaanthasma)", my favorite here. Not only does it stand alone as a fantastic piece of black metal; its shifting melody, guitar solo, great use of keyboards and masterful command of tension and atmosphere show just how potent this band can be.
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