Sunday, December 8, 2013

... YEAR OF NO LIGHT 'Tocsin' (Album review)

If I only could make movies, I’d make a movie to this soundtrack, the pictures and stories are all here in my head. Once again Year Of No Light prove that they aren’t only able to write a perfect soundtrack to a movie, but that they can write a perfect “soundtrack” that creates a movie in your head.

After two full length albums, several split releases and the soundtrack project Vampyr, Tocsin now is the third full length album (and the first through ‘Debemur Morti Productions’ ) of the French Post-Metal band from Bordeaux. The album comprises five tracks with an overall playing time of nearly one hour - one hour of atmospheres and heaviness, carefully balanced out to keep up the tension between a sense of a lurking hovering menace, its execution and its emotional impact.

The opening track Tocsin takes its time to conjure up a haunting atmosphere, beginning with quiet synth sounds, slow paced drumming a dirge like doomy atmosphere which builds up as a harbinger of pain and sorrow. The ambient sounds grow slowly from ripples into huge waves a colossal sea monster would raise when emerging from the dark cold depths of the oceans. By the time you notice and recognize its presence in form of a heavy monolithic riff you’re already lost in the deathly embrace of its tentacles, dragging you down to meet cold dark emptiness in dissonant electronic sounds and feedback. The track is indeed a perfect introduction into the album. Starting slow, quite simple in structure, but with details and layers, forceful and hypnotic.

Géhenne seems, at first listen, to leave the thread of moods the opener had set. Much faster and sounding almost cheery and light,it’s a real counterpart to all other songs, but actually it gives expression to the state of mind after you’ve met a devastating evil force. Jarring black metal sounds, melodic but noisy, steer the song towards a frantic dissonant ending.The ostensible cheeriness is one of hysterical insanity.

With Désolation the album turns back to the more slow and doomy atmospheres. Here you find yourself, quasi in sober state again, in the dark lonely vast emptiness, recognizing its inescapability with an utter depressing heaviness executed by droning sludge doom. Here the balance between crushing heavy power and and melancholic solemn atmosphere is most outstanding and of vibrant emotional tension which is continued in the following track Stella Rectrix. A short quiet and slow synth intro, followed by a monstrous riff and beautiful melancholic melodies, gaining speed with a dynamic build up, with swirling guitars, breathtakingly energetic drumming and a lot of references to early dark ambient electronic krautrock.

The last track Alamüt is the least describable (at least for me). It feels somewhat like a long outro, its dynamic, chaotic, still not incoherent.

If I only could make movies…., Tocsin is one of the most inspiring albums of this year’s releases. Is it the fact that it’s entirely instrumental, or indeed YONL’s  experience of actually having made movie soundtracks, the overall dark and epic orchestral sound (3 guitars, 2 drums, 1 bass ,4 of 6 band members taking care of all the electronic sounds, syths/keys), or their ability to create that incredible balance and tension between heaviness and atmospheric parts of which both strike with a devastating emotional impact?… whatever might be to blame for creating pictures in my head…who cares!

words by Ulla Roschat

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