There are instances every year where metal takes us somewhere unexpected and gives us a dose of reality. Not everything has to be skullduggery and violence at every turn, and a trip away from those dynamics can be a nice palate cleanser and reminder to keep our minds open for larger ideas.
That very thing comes to pass on the new split album “The Quivering Lights,” combining German neoclassical band Nachtreich, who have plied their trade in darker metallic arts before, and Greece’s mind-altering black metal spirits Spectral Lore, who we’ve discussed before on these pages. But this album isn’t a mere split, where one band gets one side of the matter, while the other group takes the other. Instead, the two units hit on the topic of the eternal struggle between the Dionysian (irrational, chaotic, emotional) and Apollonian (rational, logical, thinking) souls, based on two of Zeus’ children. These forces have done battle forever, with our actions often dragged in one direction, either toward a volcanic, passionate outburst driven by feelings and a tendency to sit down, weight the facts, and come to a well-thought-out decision. Depending on the situation, one soul can overwhelm the other, and it’s a topic that has been addressed in literature and philosophy throughout the ages.
So, instead of dividing each band and relegating them to a side, they have a conversation, a struggle, a tug of war. The group’s songs are sprinkled in the order in which they should be heard, not based on each group, and it makes for a compelling, often gorgeous portrait that each band makes this scene even richer. Plus, the whole thing isn’t a volcanic explosion. Each band makes great use of orchestral arrangements (a given considering Nachtreich’s involvement), which might rankle anyone who needs it all brutal all the time. Take a deep breath, drink in each element, and let these sounds wash over you.
Nachtreich begin the record with “Lights,” letting piano drizzle, strings rise, and a delicate ambiance take hold, almost as if you’re immersing yourself deep in water for a stretch of relaxation and extension of self. These sounds are quite lovely in spots, though eventually some power kicks in that isn’t metallic but more in the sense of light surging. The strings continue to lead down the home stretch, with a woodsy sense taking hold and the drama hitting on high. Spectral Lore follow with “Quivering,” a song that feeds off the opening track with soft keys, lurching strings, and whipping winds that lead into guitars beginning to crunch. The scene gets darker, with harsh growls erupting and every musical element blending together for a cascade of power that’s exhilarating. A dreary tempo bubbles up, with acoustic guitars ringing and teaming up with warbled vocals. Nachtreich return for “Greyness,” a track that sits in a thick viola field, plods and sears, and has a sophisticated, baroque feel to its melodies. The track shivers and plods, heading right into the band’s next cut.
That would be “Ghost Lights,” Nachtreich’s creakiest song on here and one that shows they do have some spookiness to them. As usual for them, the strings are a major player, and much of what they do is quite lush, but there also are monstrous growls here, giving the track a beauty-and-the-beast personality. Keys drip again, there is an orchestral burst that’s enthralling, and the vocals lurch as the song surges and drops out. Spectral Lore close the record with two cuts, the first being the 11:31 mammoth “Vanishing.” There’s some bait and switch in the first few minutes, as they greet you with neatly plucked acoustic guitars, but before you now it, they’re burying you with chaos. The track is destructive in spots, as if they’re carrying out the will of the Dionysian spirit itself, and there are sections that are both melodic and fiery. Calm eventually returns, giving off a murky haze, but that’s broken apart by doomy crashing, cries of pure anguish, and a caterwauling tempo that only meets its end once a serene conclusion cancels it out. Closer “Reflection” feels aptly titled, as it’s practically a comedown from the track that preceded it. Acoustic guitars emerge and lap up here and there, never really establishing a linear direction, and it’s almost like the song is a way for you to awake from whatever meditation point you achieved during these 45 minutes. Quite a fitting conclusion.
Both of these bands have made thought-provoking music before, but what they accomplish here goes beyond that. This is a true spiritual collaboration, with each band digging deep into the subject matter and interpreting their thoughts and feeling on this lifelong struggle during these six tracks. “The Quivering Lights” is a record that could can fill many purposes, from serving as a blast of calm that is occasionally interrupted by thunder, to helping you expand your thinking on this matter and ho each force plays a role in your life. Nachtreich and Spectral Lore have done their parts, giving birth to this great work. Now it’s up to you hold up your end and get the most out their artistic exploration, even if that just means enjoying the music for what it is.
For more on Nachtreich, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nachtreich-Official/134636053320790?sk=wall
For more on Spectral Lore, go here: http://spectrallore.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/
For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/
And here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/