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6 May 2010

Review: Where Life Springs Eternal (Celestiial)

Where Life Springs Eternal cover (Click to see larger picture)Celestiial
Where Life Springs Eternal
Bindrune Recordings 2009

US nature-loving doom outfit Celestiial are an unusual beast. Where Life Springs Eternal, their second full length album, is a fascinating mix of heavy, droning funeral doom guitars, tortured vocals, and glacial percussion. Somehow they’ve managed to take the usually oppressive and choking tools of the funeral doom metal trade to evoke an almost soothing animistic atmosphere of forests and streams and mist on the air. It’s a strange and impressive achievement.

It took me quite a few listens to get the point of this release. At first I felt the compositions were dry and unimaginative. The guitars are hazed in delay and fade which gives them a dreamy, airy feeling, very unusual for doom, but I thought that perhaps the music was just using this production tool as a gimmick to hide a limited creative vision. Likewise the many samples of water, wildlife, and forests.

Yet repeated listening has made me realise that this music cannot be approached the way one approaches conventional funeral doom with its dramatic dreariness and oppressive, heavy-handed drama. This music is less subterranean crush than it is wistful woodland dreaming, and it needs to be allowed to flow over the ears rather than be seen as an invitation to the cathartic aural slaughter that funeral doom usually invokes.

As such, despite the weight of the music (and the almost disturbing distant screeches that comprise the vocals) this music verges on being gentle and soothing, and certainly comes from a kind of spiritual openness, a love of land and tree and owl and stream. The darkness of the music stems perhaps from an expression of tension between the forces of nature and the incursion of human destructiveness, rather than from the more usual misanthropy or malevolence of funeral doom (not that the latter is worse off for its negativity, which I very much enjoy – it is just that Celestiial are quite unique within their chosen genre).

Punctuating the doom elements are some short but beautifully composed and performed harp pieces which really help the music to attain a richness and depth that is well deserved and very fulfilling to hear. This album is a celebration of the complex majesty of water, wood, and wind, and is marked by a depth that belies its simplicity. It may also make a good introduction to the less accessible (but ultimately very enjoyable) funeral doom bands such as Skepticism for those who have yet to discover the pleasures of this musical domain.

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