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I don’t really know what’s happening with ethereal music these days. I don’t think it knows either. Recently the top end of the ethereal wave spectrum seems soused with unremarkable artists like Chelsea Wolfe and Esben and the Witch, but for those of us who cut our teeth on the finer side of the realm when it came into prominence in the 90s, these seem like little more than an unnecessary, unconvincing new spin on a successful formula. Activity in this camp has slowed to a near halt recently, and though music subgenres rotate in and out of fashion, you can be assured there’ll be a resurgence in a few years time with new fans hurriedly stuffing the terabytes of their hard drives with music that’ll never make it past one playthrough.
In the meantime it’s up to bands like Rising Shadows to do something interesting with what’s left, and their third album sees Fredrik Klingwall’s ensemble putting out some impressive material that speaks from the ethereal Gothic soul so many of us came to love. It’s almost pointless aping what bands like Dargaard and Dark Sanctuary did, the latter even admitting that they had nowhere else for their sound to go and shutting down at the end of 2009, so Rising Shadows have produced an album that still adheres to the classic ethereal Gothic sound but throws a couple of different ingredients into the pot.
Musically there are the old elements which you’d expect to find in this area: high quality female vocals with a slight operatic tinge, underlied with soft and reveried musical conceits and dark lyrical themes. We even have the obligatory cemetery artwork which a lot of you might think is overboiled and clichéd, but which I was extremely relieved to see since it adds to the Gothic impression of the album. This level of music should really be about the melancholic and beautiful after all. In addition to all these, Rising Shadows have introduced some fresher elements to their sound such as passages from the sitar, the celesta and the Mellotron, which give parts of the album an almost world music-like quality. Though the mention of this might make the more traditional ethereal music listener back away in trepidation, try to rest assured that all these musical components are carried out in a very understated and modest way, never overburdening the music and always feeling as though they slot into place appropriately. RS have also included a slight trip-hop feel in certain numbers – which is once again subtle and understated – and harks back to the excellent later releases of bands such as Love Spirals Downwards.
Linda-li Dahlin’s vocals, for their part, are high quality and call to mind those of artists such as Alessandra Santovito’s from Gothica/Hexperos, always perfectly in tune, emotive and appropriate to the darkness of the music. Their inclusion, however, is slightly too seldom for my liking with Linda-li only featuring her talents in about two thirds of the tracks on the album, the rest taken up with instrumentals which are, to be accurate, mostly successfully carried out. Especially the wonderful “Eschaton” and “Union of the Fixed and the Volatile” are well-executed instrumentals, the latter enveloping us in its Gothic sorcery with the rousing chords of its church organ – and yes, this is actually an organ, not some cheap effect on a synthesiser. Nice touches such as these show that Rising Shadows have their concentration in the right area and care about the emotional, associative and atmospheric effects that their music is transmitting.
Though slightly more experimental than their earlier works, Finis Gloriae Mundi delivers a form of exploration which was highly necessary to give the genre a different flavour. There have been very few decent ethereal albums coming our way in the last couple of years, especially those which include the traditional ideals of the 90s. Fortunately Rising Shadows are all too aware of the yawning gap in this area and have provided us with a deep, lush, emotional and composite experience, all spiced with a few different elements for the purposes of variety. Finis Gloriae Mundi may not be a sweeping, revolutionary sensation but it does deliver what it promises very well indeed, sealing and delivering the Gothic atmosphere far better than a horde of other artists have done of late. The dark of heart are indeed still out there, just pushed further into the underground by the fickle, changing face of contemporary music trends.
01. The Diluvian Empire
02. And The Avarice
03. Union Of The Fixed And The Volatile
04. Melencolia I
05. Dissolving The Fabric Of Time
07. Amnesia Revealed
09. Wheel Of Fire (The City Of The Horizon)
10. Finis Gloriae Mundi