Label: Self-released (digital, cassette) / Narcoleptica Prod. (CD) /
Since releasing his initial demo in 2014, one-man USBM act Elegiac have been incredibly active. Since that November 2014 release, sole member Zane has released two EPs, contributed to four splits and one compilation, and has now released his first full-length, Spiritual Turmoil. The title is well lived up to; this album embraces the raw DSBM sound and mindset that has been lurking within many of Elegiac’s previous releases, though as would be hoped for given past form, there’s more to the album than just that. Even so, it’s a harrowing, cold journey, full of sorrow and desolation; exactly what you’d hope for from a black metal album with such a title, really.
Whereas previous Elegiac releases have had a tendency to move between styles and sounds frequently, with different songs on the same record often having quite different (yet still cohesive) sounds, Spiritual Turmoil is much more consistent in its execution. The guitars strike the right balance of mournful melody and black metal viciousness that characterises the best DSBM releases, and Zane handles his vocals well, mostly using a very convincing black metal snarl, but at times there are clean, wordless vocals that add an extra sense of character and atmosphere to the album. Unusually for black metal (and doubly so for one-man acts) the rhythm section is not just an after-thought, with strong, audible bass that occasionally pulls off some nice turns, and drums that have little flourishes and accents among their blasts and hammering fury. These might all be elements that Elegiac have made use of before, but never in a way that is so consistent in direction and execution.
It’s not quite a pure DSBM release, though. There’s an undeniable modern USBM feel to some of the riffs, as on “Inhaling The Dust Of Shattered Planets” and the title track, with an almost punk aggression and energy to them. Such fury might be expected to sound out of place with DSBM’s typically mournful and, well, depressive nature, but it works. Likewise, the placing of an instrumental track, “Awaiting The Conclusion Of Life”, and a short interlude, “Lack Of Sleep”, near the middle of the album helps with its pacing and keeping the listener engaged, because at 63 minutes, Spiritual Turmoil is long. Granted, DSBM works best when the songs are given time to hold you in their dark melodies for an extended period, but it does risk listener burn-out (a common problem I find with DSBM albums), but is thankfully avoided here. Additionally, the raw production of the album is a real plus too, and at times it almost had me thinking of the likes of Drowning The Light, albeit with a much more aggressive, distinctly American feel.
There’s been a real upward trend with Elegiac’s releases, with each one feeling like an improvement upon what has been released previously, and Spiritual Turmoil is no exception. If any complaint can reasonably be made, it’s that the intro and outro tracks are perhaps too long at over four and five minutes each, respectively. But this is a minor criticism, especially when one considers just how strong the actual body of the album is. According to Elegiac’s Facebook, another split and full-length are already scheduled for release this year. It doesn’t feel unreasonable to say that, if the releases continue to be of this quality, Elegiac must surely be noticed for one of the bright (dark) lights of the US black metal underground that they are. Cold, harsh, and full of misery, Spiritual Turmoil is all you could want in a DSBM record and more besides.