The great unknown, the void and the abyss, the nothingness and dark matter of which we know so little. These mercurial concepts of the universe–and existence–fill the pondering human mind with questions which are perhaps out of our grasp. Unfathomed of Abyss speaks of this search, a will to understand that which is not understandable. When your name reflects existential concepts and metaphorical gaps between all things, it is bound to produce introspective music that expresses both how boundless human sorrow is and the quintessential gap in complete knowledge. Reaping the Promethean fires that Ihsahn and his cohorts lit, Arisen upon Oblivion echoes of a world that is firmly floating in the universe(s) beyond the reach of our collective imagination.
The intro begins with an instrumental preview into the atmosphere of nothingness that defines this album, replete with a prototypical dissonant, astral guitar sound. Shortly thereafter, a melancholic piano shifts gears and allows the listener a few minutes of introspection. The guitars quickly return with a very concise sound that is focused and direct. Synth works mostly to fill the background, while the vocals are an efficient catalyst which, although indecipherable, contain a harsh shriek that seethes of a bygone era in black metal. Beyond these vocals, the synths alone confirm this, and I am transported into a time before certain trends surfaced and different philosophies and approaches to black metal began to dominate the genre.
At fourteen minutes, “To Unequal the Balance of the Cosmos” shows that Unfathomed of Abyss is not afraid of exuberance. The track is sincere in its approach, emanating from an individual who is firmly rooted within this style that, beyond two or three very particular bands, has never garnered their deserved attention. The guitars reach out from a black hole, erupting into a cosmic fury then returning to a constant. Each riff is diligently controlled, a concise razor that has no meaning, nor reason, for these things are of a human creation. The music contained herein is born beyond our fragile grasp of the universe–out of places that do not exist, yet are still relative to the third dimension.
The group of individuals who are destined to enjoy the work on Arisen upon Oblivion will largely be defined by those who appreciate the atmosphere created by the keyboards. This is a major component of the music, filling in the void between the other instruments, including the vocals, and such blatant inclusion of this particular element is an age-old divisive argument between fans of the genre. I have always felt that vocals like this define what extreme metal vocals are supposed to be, for they are merely another instrument used to express yet obscure the musician’s intentions. Alternating between a growl and a raspy scream, neither too high nor too low, the vocals on Arisen upon Oblivion match the guitars which often balance out by switching between upper-end octaves and a clear mid-tone. Indecipherable as they may be–which is a shame as the lyrical concepts seem quite interesting–they do the job of adding needed intensity to the music and are quite strong.
The back-story is certainly of interest, with the artist taking well over a decade to complete this one album. Though the album’s biggest fault is how grandiose it attempts to be, the aspiration in itself is appreciated. Kevin Talley recorded the drums, which will alone grasp the attention of some. The artist also apparently plans on replacing the synths with actual instruments such as cello and violin on the next album, so the many good concepts that are, perhaps ironically, not fully fleshed out may find themselves more complete with his sophomore effort. Although many contemporaries such as Darkspace shall garner much more attention, it still will be of interest for those who appreciate synth-driven music of this style. At times, it seems that the guitars are merely drifting, filling the air with a sound but not one of any significance. Perhaps at this time if the keyboards did something a bit more, or the vocals took front stage, this would be permissible, but I cannot say this is a fully engaging album. The production itself is very clean, with the drums unfortunately falling too far into the distance. When you have Kevin Talley filling in that role for you, you want to give him his deserved attention.
The guitar sound lacks either bite or emotional coldness, and in music such as this atmosphere is everything. Overall, Arisen upon Oblivion feels like an album that was too planned out. In psychological terms, the effort was absolutely left-brained, lacking the natural spontaneity and fervor of its origins that were modified with scrutinizing diligence for well over a decade. Much of the ambient work is quite well executed, but it does not have that sinister element needed for such an album. Yet, what works does so sufficiently enough to warrant the attention for any fan of this style, for the talent contained within is enormous and the structure of the music is evidently very creative. What Arisen upon Oblivion ultimately fails to achieve is the right sound–one that truly feels like the nothingness that awaits us all.
01) To Unequal the Balance of the Cosmos
02) The Figment Unadulated
03) Within the Glory of Other Lights
04) To Nothing
05) Within the Void
06) The Malevolence of Existence’s Continuation