Ετερόφωτος is part of a category of words that I personally adore that have deep, profound meaning but no direct translation from Greek into English. Literally meaning “Different light,” the closest approximation is “one whose light comes from others,” and it is this concept that Ayloss, aka Spectral Lore, seeks to explore on a very long-awaited full-length release. Not only does this album explore deep philosophical concepts, it also continues the running build-up in Ayloss’ releases that lay out a full-on personal manifesto for radical self-discovery and fighting back against the entrenched powers that seek to hold us in our place.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the last Spectral Lore full length proper, mostly because the musician known as Ayloss has been releasing music both as Spectral Lore solely, in partnership with other projects, and under the name of a variety of other projects (oh hey, shameless promotion) pretty freaking consistently. Still, III came out way back in 2014, and there hasn’t been a *true* Spectral Lore release since then, seemingly because III closed out the trilogy that began with his first release, the aptly titled I. Ετερόφωτος actually began in both conception and recording in 2017, and serves as the midpoint of another series of conceptual releases, one that began with 2012’s Sentinel. Sentinel as a whole touches on themes of inspiring the warrior spirit and through it achieving spiritual transcendence, and Ετερόφωτος continues that path, albeit with a more mature and tempered sense of the world and the self. “Maturity” might lend one to believe that Ayloss has given up fighting and instead seeks peaceful resolution, but in fact, the opposite is true. On Ετερόφωτος, Ayloss espouses the idea that now we must fight harder than ever before, against the past and against the powers that be, in order to truly know ourselves and to find our light, our place in the world.
There is actually a lot, musically and thematically, about Ετερόφωτος that reminds me of Ayloss’ frequent collaborator Mare Cognitum’s 2021 release Solar Paroxysm (see more shameless promotion here), in both its ferocious call for action and its more straightforward sense of aggression. Ετερόφωτος is described as “both a black metal and an anti-black metal album” in terms of its lyrical themes, but I think that description also applies to the musical qualities of the album as well. Tracks like “Ατραπός” and “The Golden Armor” focus more on classic black metal elements like raw, ripping guitars and frantic blasting drums. For those who are expecting the more progressive elements that the Spectral Lore brand is known for, fear not, they’re still there, but they’re not as immediate as the fury and impassioned vocals. The album opens up in the middle into the back half, with “Initiation into the Mysteries” bringing around some of the unconventional melodies that Ayloss is known for playing around with, and the title track bringing some really clever riffs to the party. The album closes with a twenty-minute ambient piece, which is a bold choice, but with all the energy packed into the first hour or so of the album, it seems like a fitting way to wind down, and it also serves as a narrative piece to the story of the album.
Ετερόφωτος has been a long time in the making, but the payoff is so worth it. I hate to throw around the word “maturity” in general, especially considering Ayloss’ earlier material is far from immature, but it is always really interesting watching how the growth of a person affects the growth of a musical project, and in the case of Spectral Lore, time has shown how much more deeply rooted Ayloss’ personal convictions are, and how much more vocal he has become about sharing those beliefs with the world. In times like these, I think we need more people who aren’t afraid to share their authentic selves with the world, who don’t hold back from trying to inspire the warrior spirit in us all. We can all take a little light from people like that.