Gnosis is fatiguing. Leave it at the music. Spectral Lore’s Ayloss is a magisterial guitarist, and Gnosis’s intersected Oriental-Greek black metal squeezes as much sublimity out of a home studio as one can these days. That is, until you get to Gnosis’s lyrics, which are absolutely integral to the record. Here, Spectral Lore unfortunately falls asunder with the music explained. You begin to hope that Spectral Lore will finish his experimental series and write a new album.
Ayloss built Spectral Lore up through writing melancholic astro-black metal into a steady Bandcamp career. Like fellow solo artist Jute Gyte, you knew what to expect with Spectral Lore. Ayloss was not so original but had a talent for long ambient meditations that embraced hopeful science fiction rather than Drawing Down the Moon’s drab lunar Satanism. Spectral Lore had ridden a straight course into grandiloquent atmospheric black metal.
Spectral Lore’s III (2014) was a promontory album, lauded as much for Ayloss’s emotional screams as for its epic scale that eclipsed Divine Element (2010): Ayloss’s contribution to a meat-and-potatoes death metal outfit. Divine Element was truly an odd fit for Ayloss’s ambition. III had symphonic folk metal trappings dressed in Hellenic warmth, and there was that eye constantly to the heavens. The experimental series hears Ayloss deconstruct Spectral Lore’s III.
Spectral Lore’s first in the series, Voyager (2015), had a video game OST air—loading screens, a pause in the action. Ayloss gave up the guitar for the steady pulse of last-gen Mass Effect games. Voyager was an amusing departure, though unsurprising. There, Ayloss found himself back in his cosmic niche digging into space exploration. Ultimately, Voyager sounded like Spectral Lore’s I (2006) in its ambient segments, wherein Ayloss was meditating on a single part of his nom de plume—one that could not fulfill Spectral Lore by itself.
Gnosis fairs better. At fifty minutes, it’s a long EP whose length exudes experimentation and the possibility of failure, but it’s also a slog, especially without Ayloss’s voice. Spectral Lore’s III had its sing-song rasps, but by Voyager, he had gone silent. Gnosis has vocals, but you won’t hear them because the rasps and whispers are mixed silently into the songs. Instead, you will read lyrics like, “Let me become a bridge between East and West.”
On Gnosis, Ayloss desperately seeks a cultural bond between East and West, the former of which he refers to with the dated Orientalism label. Spectral Lore takes up traditional Oriental rhythms that Ayloss credits to feeling, to a gnosis, knowledge of spiritual mysteries. He credits other bonding agents like the polymaths, Aristotle, Averroes, and even Borges. His lyrics are adorably pretentious. Gnosis can wear on the ear without vocal hand-holding, but his lyrics are so bad it’s a blessing. Still, when Ayloss just explains Gnosis with metal Bandcamp, you can get on board:
“The idea was to play oriental music with a metal instrumentation, without me particularly studying this music beforehand, but letting it out of my unconscious by invoking the idea of it (Greek folk music, as basically most of its traditional culture, is essentially a mix of European and oriental influences, actually leaning towards the latter—a fact that creates an interesting dissonance on the modern Greek, who sees himself/herself as culturally aligning with the West—so I already had a pretty good unconscious grasp of it), thus creating a kind of fusion, a new sound.”
Ayloss’s guitar playing channels his own gnosis. Though he plays few traditional Greek folk instruments, a tamboura (a Greek lute), a twelve-string guitar played with a soft-tamboura pick, and a goblet drum named the darbuka, the six-string guitar is the crux of Gnosis. His gnosis is realized on the surrealistic “Averroes’ Search,” which recalls the loneliness of de Chirico landscapes. Call this “new sound” post-black metal, but “Averroes’ Search” is Ayloss thoughtfully plotting an Oriental-Grecian black metal.
A criticism of this mixture is that the centerpiece, Ayloss’s guitar playing, subdues his traditional instrumentation—failing in Obsequiae’s mythic luster. The tamboura is not recorded with the same pluck and sounds plastic. Even so, without it, you figure Gnosis would be a failed experiment. The fusion of electric and acoustic instruments resembles Nokturnal Mortum, albeit a lack of Ukrainian melodies. Nokturnal Mortuum and Spectral Lore’s Gnosis both regress too.
Here, Spectral Lore backslides, demonstrating one of the core tenants of black metal: the refusal of the present resulting in a mania for the past. “Dualism” drowns one in tedious disenchantment—“Worn down by the frantic stillness of modernity“—that you cannot hear for the guitar’s heady bombast pushed with folksy Mediterranean instruments and a key-stroked orchestra. Like Voyager, Spectral Lore’s experimental EPs don’t hold up to his III, II, and I as much as they hold your interest. Gnosis does better, especially for those yearning for Hellenic black metal.
Gnosis was released as a CD and digitally on Italy’s I, Voidhanger Records on December 7, 2015.
02) Gnosis’ Journey Through the Ages
03) Averroes’ Search
04) A God Made of Flesh and Consciousness
05) For Aleppo