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Letum – The Fifth State of Grief

The Fifth State of Grief

The Fifth State of Grief

After eight years of silence, Mathias Henriksson of Letum has returned with a new aural epic of dark ambient compositions. What was assumed to be his final album, Broken, was released on the legendary yet sadly now-defunct Swedish imprint Cold Meat Industry. This time around, Henriksson himself is the sole proprietor of the new album, The Fifth State of Grief. At first glance this is a finely balanced cover with gloomy angelic statues that are locked in prayer, and it encapsulates the sense of desolation that has been worked into each track. I openly confess that Letum is one of the Cold Meat Industry acts that I had the least exposure to during my early delvings into the universe of ambient music, so I had to dig up my old copy of the project’s debut, The Entrance to Salvation—now nearly a decade-and-a-half old—from the uncharted depths of my nowadays rather dusty CD collection to remember once more the darkness of my atmospheric past.

I must say that the years that have passed have done some really good things for this project. The Fifth State of Grief feels like a great improvement over the previous records in both production and style. Some passages on the album are more in line with the traditional cavernous sound of dark ambient music while others border on a neoclassical style that has been bastardised by nearly martial-industrial rhythms and the use of harsh vocals, blending in perfectly with the album’s strongly evolving style. The contrast of using powerful outbursts against calmer sonic landscapes of dreamy dark ambience works surprisingly well with sections of minimal brooding melodies that suddenly explode out into bombastic crescendos of harsh metallic percussion and raspy chants. These masterfully crafted transitions breathe a grotesque power into otherwise gloomy and foreboding tracks, and the vocals add the finishing touches, enhancing the already pitch-black sensation of the album. Not all tracks are vocalised, however, but those that are—such as ‘Never Change’ and ‘With Closed Eyes I Can See’—gain a truly sinister touch with the raspy and mesmerizing voice of Henriksson, whose performance greatly adds to an already potent sensation of darkness. Not all songs work as well mixing bleak atmospheres with molten brass though; ‘Inside’ feels strangely paced with a minimal introduction that emerges into something more akin to a distorted brass section. This song in particular was particularly off-putting. On the other hand, ‘The Mourning Ritual’ is an amazing track that seethes of distorted minimalism only to merge into angelic choirs and doom-laden melodies.  This is absolute and unexpected brilliance from a gentleman who has been absent from the genre for nearly a decade.

Mathias Henriksson | Credit: Henrik Stolt

Mathias Henriksson | Credit: Henrik Stolt

Overall, the album is a fine work of art and the songs are just as ethereal, harrowing, and melancholic as one can suspect of an album named The Fifth State of Grief. It is a solid work of dark music that really is a hybrid of many different shapes and styles. It is ambient yet borders on something else completely when more classically driven elements entwine with harsh black speeches and industrial outbursts. The Fifth State of Grief is certainly an enjoyable new addition to the genre, and though I had expected more of a pure dark ambient album, I’m happy to say that this state of existence is even better.

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Track List:

01) Cast Me into the Depth
02) Let Go
03) Never Change
04) Inside
05) With Closed Eyes I can See
06) The Fifth State of Grief
07) The Mourning Ritual
08) A Heavy Burden
09) Reflection Unknown
10) The Last Years
11) Empty

Rate: 8.5/10
Written by: Skarsnik
Label: Mathias Henriksson (Sweden) / MH001 / CD
Dark Ambient