Lumen Ad Mortem - Upon the Edge of Darkness

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Featuring former members of Deströyer 666, Cemetery Urn and Deluge, Lumen Ad Mortem is a newer band that recently caught my attention. Their style demonstrates how black metal can sound relative to a more 90s approach. The debut 'Upon the Edge of Darkness' was released on January 27th, 2023 via Bitter Loss Records has its own unique identity. Lumen Ad Mortem was established in 2019 and released a single demo containing three tracks which are also featured on the debut.

Though my humble expectations were soon to be ravished by the phantasmagoric synth effects and the slow burn modus of the guitars in the opening track ‘Infinite Resonance’, the music takes a certain flow and drifts into a slower tempo. The drums provide a binding cadence to the rhythm guitar. For the production part, the sound is dense and atmospheric where Lumen Ad Mortem offers a slab of heavy guitars with the keyboard arrangements drawing more from the Norwegian black metal acts. Despite the slow-burning introduction the guitars in the following song ‘Within the Smoke’ inject aggression, providing sharp crunchy riffs that contrast with the shimmering synth waves which give the impression of the sweeping northern lights. Although the songs seem to settle more on the mid-tempo guitarist, keyboardist and bassist Aaron Tuck integrate diverse elements.

Even though the constant flow of the drums doesn’t rely on blast beats, Matt “Skitz” Sanders maintains an atmospheric theme in which the synth and the rhythm guitars reach through the swell of the dynamics. However, the third track ‘Ethereal’ is adequately loaded with fast-paced drums and the grim high pitched vocals of Gregor Pikl ignite a scathing tone that accumulates cold icy bellows building up to a powerful crescendo of heavily laden tremolos. ‘Upon the Edge of Darkness’ offers a darker mood, thus unfolding mesmeric ambient themes. As such you get a constant dose of crunchy thick guitars and intermixing between the subtle synth lines. The driven guitars and the pounding drums extend the dynamic range, so that the mid-tempos are saturated with flimsy ambient synths.

While the second half of the album moves into a faster-paced tempo, the drumming becomes more varied and the tremolo lines on ‘Thought and Memory’ come off as harsh and caustic. The chilling setting of the rhythm guitars is absolutely stunning at creating ghastly picturesque and there are plenty of moments that bring a touch of mysticism. The use of orchestration often evokes the feeling of the classic 90s black metal à la Gehenna and Lunar Aurora. The riffs mainly reflect the traditional aesthetic, while still giving emphasis on creating a grim atmosphere. Even though the songs are relatively long, clocking at six to seven minutes in duration, the music transports the listener to cold ghostly landscapes.

Lumen Ad Mortem’s debut album will mainly attract the connoisseur of atmospheric and symphonic black metal and despite the fact that there are tons of bands playing the same kind of music in this sub-genre, the Aussie trio sounds really convincing. Often eerie and dark, songs like ‘The Voices from the Stream” manifest a detailed musical framework. The combination of the slow melodic guitars and the interweaving of the synth passages coalesce into seemingly heavy pounding of the drums which show their knack for uplifting crescendo in the slower tempos. The drums on ‘Upon the Edge of Darkness’ are mainly set to the mid-tempo dynamics, but despite the ferocity, they’re balanced by the raw guitars. Therefore, they bring in plenty of zeal and intensity.

 

The dramatic intro of the drums in the final track ‘Narrow Paths and Stony Ground’ shows how the band builds its music. This epic track infuses a cinematic synth passage making a grandiose orchestration of majestic beauty. The male choral immediately caught me off guard. The guitars and the anthemic vocals swell to a crescendo of haunting tremolos to capture the emotion.  The growing grimness of the shrilling vocals keeps the flow of the music incredibly catchy. Melodic guitars weave tonal colors in a way that is worthy of repeated listening and the best part of this epic piece is when the beautiful-sounding synth adds atmosphere to the dense tremolos.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 8/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 8/10
  • Mix / Production 9/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 8/10
8.2

‘Upon the Edge of Darkness’ expands on the mid-nineties style of Norwegian black metal, bringing a perfect balance of subtle synth and dark rhythm guitars.

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