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Aeternum Sacris : (11-03-2011)

Aeternum Sacris' homage to the Japanese disaster of 2011 is a complex, layered set of arrangements with considerable depth.

Japan has always seemed like somewhere that imports music rather than produces it I must have about twice as many live albums by Western bands titled Made In Japan or Live In Tokyo than total albums by Japanese bands. And those, apart from the antique Scorpions-esque Bow Wow from my youth, all tend to be barking mad slabs of unclassifiable cross-genre work like Sigh, Teresa11 or Akira Yamaoka. Other than Boris, I couldn't even name a Japanese Doom band. All of this made it impossible to approach '(11-03-2011)' with any expectations, beyond a vague idea it would probably be...different.

The ever-helpful internet furnished a few background facts: Aeternum Sacris is multi-instrumentalist Sacris, a solo Funeral Doom project based in Kawasaki, and this self-released demo is his tribute to the victims of last year's tsunami and the Fukushima disaster. Along with his other releases, it is available for free download; in return he simply requests anyone liking it to consider making a donation of money or time to a humanitarian cause. So far, so reasonable, but still no idea what the content of the intricate Japanese wave painting cover would sound like.

Unexpected, is the answer to that. A crystal-clear mix, multi-faceted and cold as cut glass, in which the pain and tragedy of the subject is addressed with a stately, dignified, almost formal restraint. The vocals are a distant, emotionless whisper that somehow capture a sense of grief more profound than any histrionic display would manage, even as the musical themes mainly driven by crashing, saturated guitar chords try to overwhelm and drown them. As a vivid, urgent way of representing the shock and awe of disaster hammering down in unstoppable fury, it works well: it is an easy task to imagine this as the soundtrack to the video footage of those devastating waves tearing man-made structures to matchwood.

Aside from the nearly omnipresent electric guitar, the sound of Aeternum Sacris is built from varied components: acoustic guitar, a number of different orchestral and synthesised voices such as woodwind and violin, the subdued male whispered vocals and occasional female backing vocals. The sparse drumming is used more as punctuation, or another polyphonic, than as rhythm. Keyboard tones weave subtly throughout the music, sometimes replacing the guitar as melody lead. Overall, it is a complex, layered set of arrangements with considerable depth.

Structurally, the album has an almost equally formal flow. The prelude, '(Yuuki) Courage', is in the style of traditional idyllic Japanese temple-bell and koto music, setting a tranquil scene that leads into the evocative 'In Our Hearts', which mixes dark warnings with calm-before-the storm interludes, then rises to a searing crescendo. 'Deep' and 'Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea' carry the bulk of the destructive, crashing sound and fury, broken only by brief moments of illusory tranquility, as though snatching a quick breath of relief. Finally, 'Staring At Nothing' is a slower, quieter aftermath: sharply funereal as it winds down towards a mournful, wind-chime epitaph.

Funeral Doom is often derided as a genre where it is easy to get away with tediously unimaginative music as long as it is played very slowly. '(11-03-2011)' doesn't come close to fitting that template. In terms of feel, it creates an emotional winter similar to the coldness of Profetus or Longing For Dawn, but the craftsmanship and sound is quite distinctly Aeternum Sacris' own. It flags just a little through 'Deep' and 'Between The Devil...', where the guitar seems a bit too overpowering and overused, but the remaining tracks are pretty close to essential listening. And it's free, so there's no reason at all not to give it a try!

Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. (Yuuki) Courage
2. In Our Hearts
3. Deep
4. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
5. Staring At Nothing

Duration : Approx. 38 minutes

Visit the Aeternum Sacris bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-03-23 by Mike Liassides
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