Practically since the genre came into existence, there’s been a tendency for black metal bands to describe live shows as “rituals”. The term implies that they are creating more than just music; that there is something philosophical or religious to their performance, that they are striving for something more than just entertainment. It’s a sentiment few bands do justice to; but listening to Ѫ (AKA “Yus“), it’s hard not to have the sense that 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) are creating art that is intended for rituals in their truest sense. This is music for contemplation; for reaching out into those spaces beyond humanity; for striving to be closer with whatever cosmic truth may exist out there.

Consisting of two tracks, each one 6:18 long, Yus is a challenging release. The core passages feel almost free-form, sharing as much its DNA with dark ambient’s unsettling, atmosphere-heavy nature as it does that of black metal. Vocals fade in and out like a fever-dream, words rendered unintelligible even if their meaning is somehow clear, whilst the guitars summon a miasma that weighs upon the soul as much as it offers enlightenment. This duality of being is at the core of Yus, based as it is upon contradictions of possession and absence; of the space where language and meaning intertwine.

The focus that a shorter release demands when dealing with such a weighty concept is the great strength of Yus. It feels a tighter, more driven release than their previous albums, and whilst it inevitably lacks some of the scope of those records due to its shorter runtime, it in no way lacks their ambition or sense of presence. It should not need repeating by now that Sleepwalker are one of the most ambitious, visionary, genre-defying acts within metal, psychedelic in the truest sense, and Yus is further evidence of this, were any needed.

Ѫ is out now on Sentient Ruin. Purchase here.

Words: Stuart Wain

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