Greetings, Loyal Abyss Reader! I hope Santa disregarded his naughty list this year and brought you something good for a change.
So while ripping 2020 has been the proverbial low hanging fruit for anyone and everyone on social media, I for one am going to regard these past 12 months as a boom period for underground metal, thus making this a fantastic year. From Stoned God to Vampire Squid to Countless Skies to Revolting to Unreqvited to Temple of Void to both my Death Metal and (Not Trve) Black Metal Albums of the Year, Nuklearth from Cytotoxin and Afar Angathfark from Emyn Muil, respectively, 2020 has been a metal year for the ages.
During the later's AOTY coronation a few weeks back, I made reference to Soulless's 3rd LP, Shine in Purity, and I think it's time you and I have a talk about it.
So when a guitar and a synthesizer love one another very much...
Sorry, wrong talk. Indonesian one-man-band Soulless return this year with not one but two recordings: a four-way split with fellow post-black artists Sadness, In Autumnus and Grief & Bliss titled Hiraeth; and his third full-length and one of the many, many shining points of blackened light this year, Shine in Purity.
There is a strange dichotomy between subdued, minor chord progressions, blackened screams, pounding drums and their strange ability to illicit feelings of joy and contentment in me. For nearly an hour, Shine in Purity weaves sympathetic, longing tones together with post-black screams to create an album that is, for lack of a better term, beautiful. The opening track, Arunika, begins and ends with the sounds of a rainy Sunday afternoon and a simple, almost playful piano lead that ebbs and flows, not unlike the water it accompanies. In between is everything you'd want from a post-black metal track: Buzzing guitars, drums that hit and pop and are not a bit muddied by the antiquated production techniques of old, and the first of many, many inspired and infectious leads.
And herein lies the strength of Shine in Purity. Every lead has this remarkably predictable quality to it. I pointed out something similar in my review of Mistral's debut LP Somnifer not long ago and I feel the need to again stress a point: by no means was that a backhanded compliment. Too often musicians attempt to reinvent the wheel by taking a song in a direction that it's clearly not intended to go, invariably lessening the enjoyment one derives from that song in the process. Don't get me wrong, dissonance has its place, but Soulless very wisely embraces those sympathetic, melodic tones and progressions to convey a genuine sense of peace and stability. The choir that subsequently joins that lovely lead, coupled with the absolutely stellar production throughout (the best of Soulless' career, actually) serve to drive the point home that the harmonious nature of this music was designed for one thing: to be enjoyed.
By the time Pure begins, and the intro of soothing, symbiotic guitars and synthesizers is augmented by secondary, hollowed-out, distant guitars and screams, you know that the rest of 'Shine' is going to deliver nothing but searing yet cathartic metal. The fact that there are no quirky left turns or unwelcome surprises on this album is a blessing in and of itself. Just like the dissonance that has its place, the occasional synthwave or flamenco measure can add another layer of texture, or a needed flavor, to the right song. Here, however, it would detract from the calming effect that 'Shine' produces.
And maybe I'm doing this album and Soulless no favors whatsoever by using a bunch of flowery, tranquil terms to describe music that is rooted in black metal. Though far from the only "harsh" moment on the album, I See the Light in Your Eyes turns on itself about half way through, taking on new life in a firestorm of guitars and blackened screams. I'd reference Disintegration-era Cure in the morose synths and keys of Remember, but the editor told me I shouldn't reference that album during EVERY review.
And since I'm tempted to slip in a nod to Fascination Street, we're going to end with that. Digital copies of Shine in Purity are only a few bucks on Soulless' Bandcamp page. You can name your own price for his back catalog there as well, which means that you won't go broke loading up on some great atmospheric post-black metal. Want to pay a visit to Soulless on Instagram or Facebook? You can. Want to applaud me for not mentioning Pizza Combos during this review? You can.