Review / Year Of No Light – Consolamentum

Like the ritual from which it takes its title, Year Of No Light’s Consolamentum is an immersive, austere and often humbling experience. On the Bordeaux band’s fourth studio album of majestic instrumental metal, its five tracks and fifty-five minutes see Year Of No Light journeying through a feverish realm of murky religious intensity. Their music reaches towards something – a complicated telos inspired by dark, profound mysticism.

The consolamentum ritual was practiced by the Cathars – a 12th to 14th century denomination of South European Catholicism. Influenced by the gnostics, the Cathars believed in both a good and an evil God, and that human spirits were that of angels, trapped here in the material realm of the evil God. The consolamentum was supposed to free the angelic spirits from this continuous cycle, and return them to the realm of the good God. Year Of No Light’s use of this title implies a search for salvation – an immersion in the divine that allows for transcendence from the corrupt material world. In a sociocultural landscape that appears increasingly defined by murky opacity and ruled by corrupt forms, it’s easy to interpret this album as Year Of No Light’s attempt to transcend the mire and conflict that defines our current era. Perhaps the gnostics were right – the Earth really is a cold, dead place abandoned by a distant and unknowable God. The only means of achieving communion with the divine is through ritual and sacrament, as provided by Consolamentum’s hefty, hypnotic soundscapes.

Opener “Objuration” begins with hazy, menacing synths and drones, emulating a landscape shrouded in haze and murk. The textures are thick and oppressive, foreboding and deeply sinister. The track gradually develops, moving through doom metal chords and intense strings into a climax of brutal yet stifled grandeur. It’s a bleak twelve-and-half-minutes, one that, despite its epic scope, seems intent on portraying the claustrophobic, pre-ritual limits of this stark, fading world.

The sorrowful mood is pervasive, however the remaining four tracks inject brief splashes of colour and brighter refrains. “Réalgar”reaches towards the light with sharp, chiming melodies, yet is perpetually balanced out with doom-leaden and washed-out tones. “Came” features a similar dichotomy. Synths and tremolo guitars allow through some shafts of light, yet a sinister mood prevails, and leads to a devastating black metal-esque climax. It’s as though Year Of No Light areattempting to replicate the spiritual transformation of those undertaking the consolamentum. The ritual may allow for glimpses of divine brightness, yet the savagery of the bleak material world remains ever-present.

The consolamentum was primarily performed just before death. If our Earthly realm was so corrupt and broken, what was the point, the Cathars believed, in freeing the angelic spirits prematurely? The musical language of Consolamentum mirrors this, with the blastbeats and choral effects that end “Came” emulating the final transition between this world and the next. It’s an intense end to a gloriously intense album. Consolamentum’s murky tones and portentous grandeur makes for a heady, devastating listen, but it’s nonetheless a hugely powerful piece of work by a band at the very top of their game.

Consolamentum is out now via Pelagic Records and can be ordered here.

Words: Tom Morgan

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