A few years back at Black Metal HQ a memo went round the office that said:
Just a quick FYI to let you know that symphonic black metal is dead. Anyone caught attempting to reanimate its stinky and bloated corpse will be stripped of their inverted cross pendants and eyeliner.
The Dark Lord
P.S. Whoever keeps putting goat’s blood in the water cooler please stop as it will void the warranty. It’s hot down here and we all need to stay hydrated.’
Luckily Perth’s Advent Sorrow didn’t get that memo, because with Before the Dimming Light they have managed to do something that previously didn’t seem possible – restore symphonic black metal’s dignity.
The band’s Twitter feed proclaims that they are ‘symphonic blackened doom metal’ but if this debut EP is anything to by, it’s a somewhat disingenuous and overly complicated description of their sound. Rather than play the sub-genre mashing game as their Twitter suggests, Advent Sorrow seem to have chosen the simpler, if not at all easier, task of making straight up high-quality, non-cringe worthy symphonic black metal. Doom does poke its sad little face up now and then, but not enough to warrant the description.
For those who weren’t around or paying attention, there was actually a time during the mid-nineties when symphonic BM was the sub-genre to rule them all. Cradle of Filth were genuinely rad, Dimmu Borgir ruled excessively hard and all was well. But the golden age didn’t last and although many bands persisted a lot of us stopped paying attention.
If Before the Dimming Light is any indication of where things are at now, it may be time to dust off those candelabras. It perfectly evokes this golden age, referencing the gothicism and dark grandeur of both of those aforementioned bands’ earlier releases. For anyone who came of age during this period, songs like “Withered by Her Curse”, with its swirling and hypnotic piano, will draw a direct line back to your stanky teenage bedroom in which you privately air shredded to “In Death’s Embrace” from Dimmu Borgir’s iconic Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.
Before the Dimming Light is more than just Dimmu worship though. While it’s not groundbreaking it is current in its sound, confident in its delivery and also just astoundingly good. The two final tracks in particular allow Advent Sorrow to confidently demonstrate their understanding that, when dealing with this easily overdone genre, contrast and restraint are the twin pillars of success. They choose their moments well, knowing when to bring the delicate or lush symphonic elements to the fore, and when to push them behind a wall of riffs and blast beats.
This record is not going to appeal to those who measure their black metal by how ‘cold’ it sounds or how high it registers on the ‘grim-o-meter’. What it does it does well though, and what it does is give you a long overdue dose of kick arse symphonic black metal, the sub-genre you never thought would make it.
1. Before the Dimming Light
2. The Wraith in Silence
3. A Porcelain Mistress
4. Insidious Memories
5. Withered by Her Curse