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Arcana Coelestia : Nomas

This third release might be considered THE definitive Arcana Coelestia album.

Third albums. You don't have to go too far in the world of metal to find some salient examples of bands either knowingly pushing the envelope with their third releases, or having had their hands forced, perhaps by a line up change, having to try something a little different. Still yet, on the odd occasion, a selection of serendipitous stars line up and a bona fide classic is rendered. I'm not going to go so far as to say that 'Nomas' should have such a label attached to it, but the various members of Arcana Coelestia ought to allow themselves to take a quiet and private bow, or at the very least enjoy a rather wry, knowingly superlative smile. For 'Nomas' not only out-ranks anything they've done up to now, it shows a band willing to push the aforementioned envelope, and also stuff it full with the very essence of the bands creative forces.

Naming themselves after a book (referenced in August Strindberg's autobiographical 'Inferno') by Swedish philosopher and scientist Emmanuel Swedenborg, the band attempt to 'paint' their sounds and incorporate much of Strindberg's imaginary world, whilst at the same time giving voice to their own inner travels along an occult pathway. From the resultant music on offer here, there is clearly a wealth of experience, and a depth of knowledge that the band can draw on to create their sonic expression. Boasting two members of Aphonic Threnody, and having their collective associations on this release extend to URNA, Locus Mortis, and Pantheist among others, theirs is a melting-pot rich with possibility.

Starting the band to be deliberately more melancholic than his other projects, whilst at the same time wanting to bring to the fore a melodic approach along the lines of Black Metallers Summoning along with the heaviness of Funeral Doom, Arcana Coelestia's guitarist MZ has done exactly that and finally, with 'Nomas', it seemingly appears that the nail marked 'definitive Arcana Coelestia album' has been hit squarely on its proud head.

When it begins, the album's epic quality is instantly apparent. I don't mean epic in the secular, 'totes-amazeballs', let's overuse and suck the word dry of any remaining gravitas' sense. It's epic along Homerian, Coleridge-Taylor type lines. An heroic journey in sound perhaps. Also, better get this out of the way as well. If you're coming to 'Nomas' because you've heard about the 'doom band' Arcana Coelestia then prepare for something of a shock. This is about as close to a Black Metal record that any Doom band is likely to make. Sure enough it takes various cues from several of the Doom sub-genres, including 'Funeral', 'Atmospheric', and 'Epic' but in essence, aesthetic, and attitude this is far closer to Black Metal with elements of Doom, as opposed to Doom with occasional blast beats. The opening few minutes of rather grand sounding doom swiflty melt into the distinctly blackened vibe that is prevalent throughout the rest of the album.

Technically, the instrumentation perfectly reflects the dualistic qualities of the band's subject matter, and indeed its name. Each competing element of guitars, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals is equally adept at expressing force and power as it is at emotive reflection, wonder, and contemplation. A sublime blend of 'Funeral' and 'Black' approaches, and fans of both styles are to whom this album will arguably have its greatest appeal. From a production standpoint it is always going to be a challenge to get all the elements in the heavier passages to blend well together. That said, what you miss first time around gives future listens added depth and interest. At times it is like hearing a particularly dense pieces of classical music, and as such is not necessarily about hearing each musician, as it is about being moved by the collective score.

'Nomas'' greatest strength then is its use of light and shade. The music shifts effortlessly between imposing, heavy passages utilising melodic tremolo picking and vast power chords with stately death growls to the quieter, more ethereal and emotive strains of expansive keyboards, deft basslines, and clean vocals whilst all the while losing none of its power or solemnity. It's in these breakdowns that the raw, emotive, romantic soul of the album exposes itself periodically, before hiding away again among the cascading, heavier elements of the bands full onslaught. There are some nice touches here and there too. For example: the murky acoustic guitar at the beginning of track three, much of the keyboard work throughout, and the clean singing, the full merits of which only come to light after a number of subsequent listens. It is an expansive palette that Arcana Coelestia are utilising, and they're equally proficient across its breadth and throughout its depth.

Arcana Coelestia have forged something well beyond past evidence here. An unquestionable rise to the occasion, at a pivotal time, when doing something just a little bit different whilst at the same time retaining defining artistic core values is perhaps the order of the day. It's not an easy thing, holding two seemingly opposing values together like that. But it's clearly something that Arcana Coelestia are rather good at.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Nomas I
2. Nomas II
3. Nomas III
4. Nomas IV
5. Nomas V

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the Arcana Coelestia bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-03-22 by Matt Halsey
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