Celestial Season – Mysterium I

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Celestial Season’s release of ‘ The Secret Teachings’ two years ago marked in my opinion the comeback album of the year. Along luminaries as My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Cathedral or Anathema they played a pivotal role in the nascent death doom scene of the early nineties. Amidst the then burgeoning Dutch death metal scene they were a unique band that could stand shoulder to shoulder with their more splatter obsessed compatriots IN Gorefest or Asphyx, replacing the blood and gore with lovelorn melancholy.

After two albums that are now regarded as classics, the band switched gears away from their death doom roots towards a more stoner oriented sound and eventually split in 2001. A decade later they got back together for what was initially meant as a one-off commission for the Roadburn festival, playing their classic sophomore ‘Solar Lovers’ in its entirety. That was the seed that would later bloom as their comeback album ‘The Secret Teachings’, an album that even now after my initial giddy buzz has passed, I still regard as one of the finest nineties inspired death doom records in recent history.

Luckily enough for us doomheads this did not turn out to be a singular undertaking, as now we get ‘Mysterium I’, their 2022 follow up. This album will be the start of a new chapter in their history as it is to be the first part of a trilogy, with two more albums to follow. After a cinematic intro, ‘Black Water Mirrors’ opens with the languid melancholy they have mastered so craftfully. The refrain is a tad more uptempo and will lodge yourself in your brain from the very first spin.

‘The Golden Light of Late Day’ is a tranquil track that is again founded on the interplay between the cello or violin and the guitars. You can almost feel the sun on your face on a warm summer evening. ‘Sundown Transcends Us’ is going to be another fan favorite. It centers around an earworm guitar lead that immediately catches on as it travels through oriental spheres and even goes for some stoner styled rumbling that very subtly reminds of their ‘Solar Child’. Taking it back to familiar doom territory, ‘This Glorious Summer’  brings back warm summer feelings for this old doomster. As shatteringly beautiful as I may find this delicate flirting between the axes and the strings, this track proves that stripped of all that, they can also write a fantastic tear inducing song with a very basic setup.

‘Endgame’ is definitely the most driven uptempo track on the record and could give Paradise Lost a run for its money. ‘All That is Known’ is another slow burner. It starts off in an almost drone-like fashion, before it settles in with some cool progressive guitar work. The album closes on the title track in which the German spoken outro and the choral chanting set it up for a mystical ending that can lead in the next chapter in the trilogy. Even tough they are all part of a larger triptych, each of the seven songs stand perfectly on their own as excellent examples of mournful death doom with no fillers or inconsequential interludes.

In comparison to their comeback record, the new album does dare to venture a bit further from their nineties legacy while still remaining firmly rooted in their self-proclaimed doom era, which is right where a dyed in the wool gloom fanatic like me wants them stylistically. Can’t wait to hear what the next part in the trilogy will sound like, but until then we have a really well done  death doom record here that I will come back to quite often.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 9/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 9/10
  • Mix / Production 9/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 8/10
8.6

Excellent nineties inspired death doom from one of the genre’s pioneers.

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