Band: UPON SHADOWS
Genre: Dark metal
Full Length: Modern Obscurantism
Label: Ground Media Group
Format: CD, digipack CD, digital, streaming
Release date: October 18, 2019
I made a point of keeping up with Upon Shadows through the 2010s with good reason. All that time I observed them slowly but steady blossoming into a Tarterian flower of gloaming twilight. With each new release they exhibited black metal’s intrinsic charm and seduction more clearly, asserting that underground metal can become art and listeners can appreciate it as such. This despite an industry that promotes sameness to an audience too willing to accept whatever they’re handed.
The band’s new full length “Modern Obscurantism” expands the range and scope of past releases “7 Stages Of Grief,” “Between the Southern Cross & the Northern Star” and “Fatal Stigma Of The Realist.” The dramatic craftsmanship of Tamara Picardo and Natalia Arocena is an aide-memoire of what I held in high regard of Charmand Grimloch’s Tartaros, Cradle Of Filth, Ancient, Theatre Of Tragedy, Satyricon and My Dying Bride. Those bands held your attention while imaginatively drawing tenebrosity from the deepest, darkest abyss. After seventeen years with no core lineup changes, Picardo and Arocena possess this ability to enchant and beguile.
The album’s first single, “Vanity’s Bonfire,” was out on Youtube the day it was released. I suggest watching the promotional video first, to get an idea of the thematic concept of “Modern Obscurantism.” I gather the message of the song is a recurring message in extreme metal. Mankind, like nature, is as destructive as it is creative. The sharply delineated contrast of light and darkness reiterates this point. Shots of twilight in one segment is ambiguous as to whether the sun is rising or setting, and another segment is a semi-montage of images from history depicting humanity’s darker nature. All this is expressively presented and inspires you to think about it.
Kobzr Magazine from Germany succinctly refers to “Modern Obscurantism” as a masterpiece. This could be summing it up or oversimplifying the point, depending on your perspective. But the zine also describes the arrangements on the album to be well thought out. Not far from the truth as these songs are meticulous and patient, taking time to make their point rather than coming across as too eager. They have a malevolent constitution that emanates organically from the songwriting. Mike Pohjola of Soundmix Studios has enough experience from working with Fatal Effect, Sirakh, Aeon Rite and others to enhance the percussion by session drummer Joonas Alaräihä (Fatal Effect), Arocena’s solid bass and Picardo’s fuzzy guitars and divergent vocal styles.
The most convincing job in terms of songwriting and production is in the keyboard sounds courtesy of Picardo. These vary according to what each song needs for effect. Many times I received chills similar to those I received from Satyricon’s “The Shadowthrone” and My Dying Bride’s “Turn Loose The Swans.” Here those sounds add to an epic folk tale, mourning the loss of innocence to the evils committed by human beings. From introspection to frozen tears like rain to looming malevolence, the keyboards are an integral part of the band’s formula. “Modern Obscurantism” is a promising release for the end of 2019 and the result of much hard work and dedication on the part of all those involved. -Dave Wolff
Natalia Arocena: Bass
Tamara Picardo: Vocals, guitars, keyboards
Joonas Alaräihä: Session drummer
1. Back to the Dark Ages (instrumental)
2. Vanity's Bonfire
3. The Archaic Censorship Of Your Eyes
4. Creators Of Shadows
5. Dogma: The Infamy Of Fire
6. Lux et Umbra
7. Illusion Of Freedom
8. Handling Cognitive Factor
9. Out Of The Blue Comes The New Plague