It took a while for it to happen, but the weather here in Chicago finally reached the “endless gray and gloom” stage of winter, where every day feels exactly the same and there hasn’t been sunlight in what feels like months. During these periods, I like to lean into the kind of music that embraces that chilly, desolate mood the snow and slush bring, and, just in time, Melbourne’s Arbrynth have released their sophomore album A Place of Buried Light. The album perfectly encapsulates what a Chicago winter feels like: cold, dark but with a subtle hope for what’s next.
Their first release since their 2011 self-titled debut, A Place for Buried Light continues Arbrynth’s black-metal-meets-post-metal-meets-folk style, this time with lyrical themes following a story of love, loss and connections of both to nature. Each track is a chapter in the story of a character who loses someone they care about and attempts to find any way to reconnect with them. Forgoing the traditional aggression of contemporary black metal, Arbrynth choose to craft a deep, somber mood with mid-tempo drums in place of the usual blast beats and gentle strums and arpeggios in place of furious tremolo picking, a nod to their folk roots and sensibilities. All these elements lend themselves to an album that breeds deep introspection and pensive gloom more than head banging and fist pumping, but I am positive that was the band’s aim. A concept album about losing a loved one and reconnecting with them through nature doesn’t exactly make for a raging mosh pit but it does make for a really great, cohesive album. You can tell when you listen that every part and piece was meticulously crafted to fit the narrative and to make sure it flows with what came before and what comes after. No song feels out of place and everything ties together really nicely, enhancing the mood created by the band.
Guitarists and co-vocalists Dodds and Pete do an excellent job of letting their guitar parts build off of each other. The intensity of these songs burn slowly, starting from small, simple parts and working up to gigantic, pulsing crescendos. The increased use of clean vocals also helps develop the songs and allows them to not only reach new heights, but to carry the story to the listener. In fact, the clean vocals coupled with folk aesthetics make for some of my favorite parts of the album. The way the clean and acoustic guitars play off each other on tracks like “Crucible” and “Shores of Avon Ri” are the highlights here, and I almost find myself wishing there were more parts like them on the album as a whole. I think a lot of the folk elements come from the style of the songs and the way they’re played, and that works for the most part, but I think the folkiness would really shine with more diverse instrumentation. A little more acoustic guitar and strings, maybe throw some pipes and/or whistles in there and I think the songs would carry a lot more of the nature theme in them. Still, I can see that being hard to replicate live, and Arbrynth have done their fair share of high-profile touring, and hopefully will continue to do so in support of this release.
This is definitely an album to check out if you want a soundtrack to the gloomy, dark end of winter. Digging deep here will reward you with a rich atmosphere of swirling, moody guitars and somber vocals, but with enough beauty underneath to let you know that things won’t be this glum forever.