Ritualistic music is fun to listen to, it takes the listener away from the present. Where it takes them is really up to the listener but the important thing is to be transported away. All music does this to an extent but ritualistic music, music that has a sort of religious bend to it, does more than just take the person’s mind, it takes their soul and heart. It transports their mind and imagination as well. When ritualized music is combined with metal, well what could be better than that? I encountered a black metal band called Hesychast, named for a “heretical” movement in the 1300s which entailed living as a hermit and little activity outside of prayer and contemplation, and their debut album “Ageless” and I found a great example of ritualistic black metal.
Also, as you could have guessed already, the band is of that particular genre known as unblack metal. I can hear the boos from here, but trust me here. If you like music, then keep reading, if you believe all music has to have some sort of philosophical bend and cannot separate itself from said bend then this is not a band for you, I’m sorry. If you can listen to a piece of music and appreciate the musical abilities and talents of the artist, then Hesychast is for you. Yes, they are a Christian black metal band and that seems to go against everything black metal is supposed to be but give them a chance. Listen to the music and leave the message alone unless you actually want it. That’s what I’ve done for the last decade. Music is music, yes black metal is supposed to be evil and dark and what have you but listen to Hesychast and tell me that the music alone is not really black metal.
Ageless is pretty dark. It’s not your typical happy dance Christian music. It’s deeply melancholic with a heavy and depressive atmosphere (but don’t mistake that for being depressive black metal). The guitars center around a dissonant counterpoint, one melody played in one ear and slightly different one in the other. It’s dizzying and chaotic but the entire album is held together like this. Each melody can be followed throughout the songs from beginning to end without the need for the other melodies to complete it. Yet when you listen to the entire thing together you get nuances that you wouldn’t get from listening to just one. But that’s how dissonant counterpoint works. Hesychast don’t really do anything groundbreaking but what they do, they do well and they use in innovate combinations. At a certain point in music every single melody and combination of notes will have been recorded (I hope I don’t live to see that day) and it will then be up the artists to array those notes and melodies in new ways. Ageless is a good example of that sort of forethought and innovation.
My favorite part of the album was the vocals. They were harsh as black metal vocals ought to be but there were hints here and there of chanting beneath the harsh vocals themselves. Indeed a few times on the album the buzz and drone of the guitars cleared away and the haunting, chant like vocals took center stage. It’s really something. They don’t over use the chanting, making it a gimmick that they can pull out when they have no other ideas, it’s a seasoning, a flavoring to the music that heightens the entire thing, gives it depth and power. Without the album would have still been good, elements of Ageless were all strong but the added bonus of the vocals really pushes out of the humdrum of atmospheric black metal and makes it something special, makes it singularly unique.
Now it may be your taste, it might not. I can certainly understand any hesitation or downright refusal to listen and that’s perfectly okay. We are all entitled to listen to whatever the hell we want to listen to. I really enjoyed Ageless. It’s a strong album that blends atmospheric metal with liturgical song composition. It’s a great experimentation, it’s bold yet it’s subtle. It’s not an album that should be judged solely on the message. It’s black metal, that’s all I need to know.
Listen and support!