Story anthologies, the books that have the story within a story, can be some of the most fascinating stories but they can also be some of the most confusing. Each story is somehow related to the previous ones and to the overall narrative, stringing stories together like this is not an easy task, I can tell you as a writer myself. The best possible example of this is of course Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. How does this relate at all to today’s black metal review? I had a chance to listen to Abandoned by Light’s latest album “Broken Mirrors to the Stars” released in September of 2016. With roughly half of the album being covers of the classic depressive black metal artists, the best thing I can say is that it’s a story anthology.
Half of the story of the album is taken up by the covers, the album itself spans a rather insane two hours and twenty minutes. Each of these covers is from the giants of depressive black metal: Nargaroth, Lifelover, Silencer, Happy Days, Nocturnal Depression, and Burzum. With each of these covers, Abandoned by Light is retelling stories, famous stories along his own journey into oblivion.
It’s easy to listen to two and a half hours of music, hell it’s easy to listen twelve hours of music. It’s not quite so easy listening to the same album for two and a half hours. Broken Mirrors to the Stars is a marathon album, it lingers for quite some time in a few places where I think it didn’t need to but I won’t knock it too much. It’s a mammoth undertaking but the finished product is still impressive. My only suggestion here might have been to remove a cover or two and leave some material for a separate album. It’s an impressive feat, to be sure though.
The music, that’s a different story. I highly enjoyed the thin but still clean production. The guitar riffs are solid, razor sharp with a sort of wasp like buzz that fills in quiet spaces, sometimes just at the edge of hearing while the guitars buzz on. The drums are thin but lay a solid foundation, strong enough to hold the entire maddening ensemble together. The vocals are scarce, but when they show up they are nasty and shrill. If you listen close enough you can understand the vocals and the lyrics are actually poetic, detailing a descent into a depressive isolation. It’s sad but in a way it’s beautiful.
The story of the album is, as I said, the deteriorating mental state of the protagonist. The listener acts like a psychiatrist, listening to the patient’s description of their descent, but the listener is unable to do anything about it, they are powerless to help or assist. This is not a four dimensional story where the listener’s perceptions of events dictate what can happen, the elements of the story are set in stone. We, the listener, are forced to watch as the train comes off the tracks.
The breaks in the story, the covers, are like side stories, tales from other patients. Their purpose? As far as stories go I would suspect they are there to stop the battle fatigue, the mental exhaustion one can get when listening to the horrors of a single patient. But this is depressive black metal after all, this sort of mental anguish is par for the course. The story ends on a very vague note. Is the patient dead? Is there still more madness to go through? Has he retreated so far into himself that he no longer distinguishes reality from his mind? Who can say, it’s an open ending that doesn’t leave much hope, none at all really. Still it’s a good story, not every story can end on a positive note, otherwise I’d postulate that there wouldn’t be a reason to have stories at all.
I would recommend this album to fans of depressive black metal, Abandoned by Light is not an easily accessible band that really isn’t for beginners. It’s a very good album, despite the monstrous overall length of the album, but it’s not going to be for everyone. Abandoned by Light is very prolific, coming out with several albums in the last few years. I think this is best of the lot since 2013, it has the strongest story and the best production and musicianship. If you like depressive black metal and you somehow haven’t heard of Abandoned by Light, then Broken Mirrors to the Stars is a great place for you to start.
Listen and support!