As the seasons begin to shift once again, the yearning for black metal returns. I am a ‘summer black metal’ person – that is, I take the time to cram as much black metal as I can in a period of four months before I get sick of it. Then, the cycle repeats anew, and I yearn for the bleakness of a genre that doesn’t fit with the weather conditions I live in. It may sound like a bad idea, but when you’re feeling miserable, black metal can heighten that feeling and, for me, that is essential for getting through the summer. In order to pre-game that feeling before July begins, I decided to go back into my research roots and look into a band whose first full-length gave me hope many years ago. This leads to the bleak, incessant sounds of Sol Sistere and their newest release, Extinguished Cold Light.
For a genre that many would consider to be stagnant, atmospheric black metal has yet to disappoint me, even with some of the albums I’ve heard over the years, and this band is no different. Their first album, Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum (see review), was one of the best albums I had heard in 2016, and I was surprised that this band was still underground (for the most part) when I first encountered them. It’s clear from the opening strains of “Elemental Chaos” that these guys have expanded their sound range. Although the music continues to be mired in inherent sadness and atmospheric tonalities, Extinguished Cold Light expands on the various aspects that made Unfading such an enjoyable listen. Yes, the atmospheric droning is there, but the music has more variance and color, adding another layer to the musical structure and the overall atmosphere of the album. This is most evident in “Swallow the Misery” where they incorporate clean chanting over blast beats that make you want to move, or something. There are moments where the music sounded a lot like Zeal & Ardor’s Stranger Fruit, especially in the employed guitar tones but they still use other tones to make their music sound bombastic and different than everything else I have heard so far this year. However, don’t let that deter you from listening to this album – it has everything that makes atmospheric black metal stand out and it’s seeing these changes and new tonalities that allows me to come back to this genre.
However, my only complaint about this album is its length, or speed in which it’s over. Although I tend to look at atmospheric black metal albums over 50 minutes with disdain, I wish this album was longer. I have a feeling they would greatly benefit from expanding their run time from 52 minutes to 60 minutes. I felt there was so much more they could’ve done if they gave it more time. I also didn’t want the music to end – it’s a highly enjoyable album which, for me, is a lot to say about black metal in general.
All in all, Extinguished Cold Light continues the themes set in Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum, but also expands them. If Unfading was the foundation, then Extinguished is the beginning of the first story in the skyscraper that is Sol Sistere. I am now deep in their camp and hope that their next full-length continues to evolve their sound and aesthetic. If they do decide to move away from the atmospheric camp, I hope they do it in a big way – the possibilities are endless.