Genre: Dark Ambient / Dark Metal
When our modern, decadent society eventually and inevitably kills itself off, what will we have left? What will become of culture? What will become of art? After civilization as we know it collapses due to our collective neglect and indulgence, all that will remain are the roots of human instinct – A primitive, and often ignored, part of the human soul that only exists in ancient memories and contemporary shamanic cultures. As the skyscrapers, the vehicles, and the technology lie in ruins around us, will that human spirit re-emerge? This is the post-apocalyptic landscape that is evoked through Canaan’s most recent offering contro.luce, their sixth studio album and a refreshing reclamation.
Erupting from a 4 year dormancy, the Italian “Dark Ambient / Dark Metal” masters have returned with a warning, or perhaps a prophecy, for humanity. True to form, Canaan presents the listener with an album intermingled with metal-tinged, moody Gothic pieces complimented by their evocative, dark ritual ambient trade-offs. Every track is vital to the full expression of this album, and nothing can be considered an “interlude” or an “intro”. In fact, they make it quite clear that neither style deserves primacy. To begin, each metal/goth song is given a title and each ambient piece is untitled and given a “.” as a place holder. Halfway through this journey, everything is inverted, and the metal/goth songs become the afterthought, untitled “.”, while the ambient pieces take on the full titles. Was this a mistake? Hardly! This is clearly a necessary decision, as we shall soon see.
“Contro Luce” is literally translated to “Against the Light” – fitting for an record that is firmly rooted in the darkness, but not necessarily an empty, hollow darkness. This is darkness with meaning. After the fall, this is the raw beautiful truth. The melancholic, bittersweet heavy songs present an atmosphere of bleakness that could only radiate from a dying culture. Mechanical and synthetic sounds are employed to give voice to their human artists, but there is only so long that they can be effective as the very society that spawned them is waning. At the beginning of the album, “Calma” relays a crackling radio voice like a lost transmission, only to return again at the album’s turning point in “Oblio”. The first thing to notice is that the lyrics are entirely sung in Italian. A bold and unique choice for Canaan, who have exclusive sung in English until now. No better a medium for expressing power and beauty than the Italian language. Guitars are sparse and are only used to add power when needed or another eerie voice lingering in the background. Synths build layers of obscurity in a mechanical harsh environment. These are majestic songs that seem to emanate from a wasteland of broken machinery and inorganic decay
Counterpoint to this are the serene moments of ambiance, and the reminder that underneath our luxuries exist our instinctual, spiritual truth. The feeling of ritual is very palpable in all of these pieces, which is so powerfully in opposition to the interspersed heavy tracks. When the loose threads of civilization melt away with the confines of infrastructure what happens to the race? Will we return to a tribal-like system? Remembering the value in a primordial connection to what once was? We can reclaim culture, and again pride in our ethnic fruits can be a shameless value. After the city skyline comes crashing down this is the sound of redemption. The prominent acoustic instrumentation (hand drums, flutes, chimes, voices, stringed instruments) further drives this point home and deepens the juxtaposition, as if tribal humanity exists in the darkness away from what once was the self-mourning dead city.
However, both styles still give a voice to the two extremes of humanity: the decadence and the inner truth. It is this voice that makes everything strangely human. From the evil demonic voice in “Terrore” to the innocent child’s voice in “. (track 6)”, all of humanity’s breadth is explored and expressed. Ultimately, Canaan’s album succeeds in the tension between these extremes, and the union it suggests. Both present a level of beauty and an unavoidable reality that must be confronted. This is powerfully heavy journey that managed to transcend language and aesthetics to instil a deeper human universality. One day this will all be gone … and then where lies our truth?