SPECTRAL LORE “Gnosis” – VINYL 2xLP | IN THE WORKS
VINYL VERSION TO BE PRESSED ON 2xLP.
LICENSED FROM I, VOIDHANGER.
RELEASE DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED.
“Spectral Lore has quietly been blowing the minds of black metal fans across the globe since 2006. Perhaps no other black metal act in recent years (And maybe ever) has been able to put out music that so consistently raises the bar, not just for the band, but for the genre as a whole. Spectral Lore’s latest release, Gnosis, is something of a sequel to this years previous EP – the majestic Voyager. Intended to be a rather experimental reflection of the impact of oriental music on, project mastermind, Ayloss’s native Greece, there is something strangely magical about what he has managed to put together with this EP – blowing your mind and leaving you wondering where his music will go next.
One of the first things that should strike you about Gnosis is how unique it simply sounds. I’m not even really talking about the music here. Colin Marston’s unique brand of production, alongside Spectral Lore’s distinct execution makes the record a fascinating listen. On top of that, the vocals never really take the forefront. Instead, songs like “Gnosis’ Journey Through The Ages” hint at vocal lines that resound, distorted in the distance. They help to create a vibe that penetrates the subconscious and helps to create a unique soundworld for the record, giving the album a very specific feel, something that is far too rare in this modern and over saturated market. The point being – even though Gnosis acknowledges a lot of black metal tropes, it manages to sound like its own beast.
Beyond that – Gnosis sees the usual Spectral Lore guitar magic at its very finest. With beautifully composed acoustic tracks fitting in nicely alongside surprisingly frostbitten pieces. Ayloss’s sense of melody is stunning as ever and the eerie sounds that resonate across “A God Made Of Flesh And Consciousness” or “Dualism” have a way of finding their way straight into the listeners heart. With his classical guitar mastery you find yourself increasingly lost in what this genius has to offer. For example, it’s impossible to listen to “Averroes’ Search” (Probably my favorite Spectral Lore composition to date) and not feel the inherent melancholy of the human condition. In his own weird way Alyoss is able to use his very unique brand of black metal to speak directly to the soul.
At the end of the day – Gnosis is much more than just a damn good black metal album. It is an artistic statement that speaks to all that black metal can and should be in 2015. It pushes boundaries in ways I never even previously imagined, and it gives a sense of well deserved artistry to a music that we all love. The deeper you dig into Gnosis the more you see how it reflects what it means to be human and gets at something deep within all of us. This is more than just an album – this is a statement, and one that has the potential to ring out through the ages. Alyoss is one of the great musicians of our time, and Spectral Lore is a force to be reckoned with.”
“Greece’s Spectral Lore is the product of Ayloss, a conceptualist whose work is suffused with tributes to nature, the cosmos, and science fiction. Releases from Spectral Lore, his main creative output, are nominally labeled as black metal, mostly due to muted, harsh vocals and occasional blastbeats; but, most of Spectral Lore’s later output resides somewhere in the nether regions between the progressive, the ambient, and the avant-garde.
The last full-length from the band, III, which was released in early 2014, made a number of best-of-the-year lists, including my own, mostly due to the wonderful sense of melody that pervades the atmosphere. A couple of splits and EPs have followed, but Gnosis is the first of those releases that has really caused me to sit up and take notice.
Gnosis largely picks up where III left off: That is, it’s a clearly conceptual album with wonderful guitar melodies and a very dreamy feel to the music. Although clocking in at about fifty minutes, Gnosis is classified as an EP; I suspect this has to do with the fact that the album is instrumental and experimental in nature. The pace is also much slower than what appeared on III, and any classification of Gnosis as black metal is a much further stretch than any such labeling with III.
The guitar work is absolutely stellar, with distorted riffs and acoustical passages going hand in hand. The guitars are highlighted on this release, even more so than on past efforts, and, although not very technical, it is perhaps with Gnosis that Ayloss comes into his own as a distinctive master of riffs and melody. He also appears to be experimenting with several different regional styles, perhaps at the intersection of East and West. I’ve no doubt that if this EP gets the exposure that it deserves, people will be mentioning Ayloss and Dagon of Inquisition in the same breath as wholly distinctive guitarists.
Broken into three distinct movements, “Dualism” and “Gnosis’ Journey Through The Ages” are harsh songs to open the EP with, distorted riffs and keyboards lurking in the distance. The highlight of the EP, though, is the acoustic track “Averroes’ Search” at the midpoint, with clean strumming, maracas as percussion, and a wonderful melody. Finishing the EP is “A God Made Of Flesh And Consciousness” with a heavier, denser sound, and another acoustic track, “For Aleppo”, with guitar melodies that have a very Mediterranean feel and with synthesizer work providing a backdrop.
Ayloss has made a statement with serious musicianship and songwriting. Gnosis is an excellent work of progressive, melodic metal that should have easy crossover appeal with other genres.”
“I understand that this EP isn’t typical of Spectral Lore’s ambient BM discography but after reading a few reviews of some of this act’s other recordings, I realise that Ayloss, the man behind Spectral Lore, isn’t one to stick to the straight and narrow left-hand path. “Gnosis” is a very rich, beautiful and hypnotic work that fuses powerful and hard-hitting corrosive black metal and music of a more esoteric and mystical bent drawn from folk music traditions in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. If ever a listener desires to hear fusion black metal / psychedelia combined with music from former Orthodox Christian / Byzantine imperial territories, this highly immersive and evocative EP is the work to refer to.
As its title suggests, “Dualism” straddles the parallel universes of tough, straightforward BM and the soundscapes of blazing hot winds sweeping over shifting landforms of sand through which ghosts of people who lived and died in these territories over the millennia whisper warnings against venturing too far into these desolate realms. While guitars are the main stand-outs here with twisting Oriental melody and powerful riffs, the drums pound out near-tribal beats and synthesisers add an epic aspect that turn the track into a mini-movie soundtrack. “Gnosis’ Journey through the Ages” is an even more powerful if perhaps repetitive and somewhat unstructured juggernaut of crashing percussion, exotic winding quarter-tone melody, harsh desert demon sighing and expansive windswept and sand-blasted soundscapes suggesting a long, tortuous and perhaps brutal and violent history of Gnosticism through the ages, surviving persecution again and again through underground movements and societies.
“Averroes’ Search”, a reference to the mediaeval Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd who defended secular reasoning, and the short story of the same name by 20th-century Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, is an all-acoustic affair of squiggly guitar, bass and percussion mixing formless improvisation and an intricate winding melody accompanied by stately rhythms. The song links two personages (Ibn Rushd and Borges) of two very different and perhaps opposed ages with Ayloss, and its message is that cultures of both East and West have more in common than people may realise. By itself “Averroes’ Search” is an entertaining, absorbing and above all fun piece but it is long for what it does. In the context of the whole recording, it saps the earlier momentum and intensity built up by previous tracks. “A God made of Flesh and Consciousness” is a return to fusion BM / Oriental music form, and while it’s quite a good solid track there are occasional filler-music moments where the guitars seem to be constantly on the defensive battling unseen monsters and barriers, and not advancing very much.
Final track “For Aleppo” appears to stand out from the rest of the EP and has an elegiac and sorrowful mood. The piece may be a lament for the destruction of the Syrian city’s priceless cultural heritage by fanatical ISIS and other Wahhabi Islamist takfiris.
While parts of the EP probably could have been tightened up and edited for length without affecting its themes and messages, generally I find this is a very singular, passionate and entrancing recording. There are a few stylistic details that I would quibble about but these are my personal preferences: where possible, I prefer to hear live acoustic instrumentation over synthesisers, especially synthesisers used to simulate orchestras and not as instruments in their own right. But apart from these little wrinkles, “Gnosis” is a work that Spectral Lore can be proud of.
I’d even go so far as to say that, with the passage of time, “Gnosis” may come to be considered a major black metal fusion classic of its kind.
The cover of the album is a reproduction of the painting “Lycinna” by John William Godward, a late 19th-century British Neoclassicist painter who had the misfortune of being a contemporary of French Impressionists and (later) post-Impressionist and avant-garde art movements. The choice of a Godward painting as the album cover may reflect an interest in an idealised world and culture that could have existed but whose opportunity for existence has now been lost.”