Avantgarde Music, 2009
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
1. Cursed Universe
2. Lord of Mind
3. Fire and Thirst
This project got instant recognition from me because it is the solo project of the other guitarist involved with Darkspace, Zhaaral. The album title, "Skullreader," seems reminiscent of the pseudo-science called Phrenology, which was the belief that certain mental faculties are related to the shape of the skull. This also came in the guise of feeling the bumps on someone's head and getting an idea of someones character. It's long been discredited, but was around in the 1800's. The packaging in a sort of digi-sleeve format where you slide the disc out and fold over a flap. The only other CD I own packaged this way is Old Man's Child's "In Defiance of Existence". I didn't like the packaging then, and I'm not a big fan of it now. It's a really interesting idea, but in practice I don't like my CD's difficult to get at, especially if I want something while I'm driving. At the very least the art looks quite beautiful and I do wish there was more of it.
"Skulreader" proves to be one of the most compelling albums released this year for me. Everything is just so perfectly composed and arranged that you can't help but get drawn into this experience. One of the really interesting things about this project is that we really get insight into what Zharaal is bringing to the Darkspace project. I had a pretty good idea of what Wroth was doing because of Paysage d'Hiver's long legacy, but since there is so much crossover I wasn't sure how much Zhaaral was bringing to the project beyond a vocal performance. With Sun of the Blind it seems quite clear that he is bringing an immense to the project. All these incredible leads I discuss when it comes to Darkspace seem to be drawn off of him quite a bit. I imagine Wroth laying down foundation work for Darkspace while Zhaaral brings us the incredible atmosphere created by the lead section.
Zhaaral's work with Sun of the Blind is actually quite different from the other projects. Sun of the Blind is a calm and introspective type of work. There are no intense or extremely fast sections, there are no blast beats, there is just beautiful and mesmerizing music. Sun of the Blind doesn't put the listener into that quiet trance with speed and intensity as Darkspace and Paysage d'Hiver will sometimes do, instead Sun of the Blind focuses on slow rhythms with highly atmospheric lead sections. It's a very calming and incredible work, which quite shows off the level of diversity you can find within the genre of Black Metal. This really is the type of album the listener experiences rather than just passively listens to. "Skullreader" also comes as generating some beautiful soundscapes due to the high level of atmospheric writing, usually driven through those lead sections. If you ever wanted to hear the lead aspects of Darkspace recast in a more melancholic and clear nature, then "Skullreader" is the album you've been waiting to hear.
As usual with the musicians behind Darkspace, this is yet another immense work. It's completely it's own thing, but no less compelling and incredible. I am just glad it did not come out the same year as "Dark Space III" or else choosing top albums for that year would have been immensely difficult for me. Sun of the Blind is absolutely a must have if you're interested in Atmospheric Black Metal, and if you found Darkspace's intensity a little harsh, then "Skullreader" presents a very different atmosphere that is probably a bit more accessible. Truly a beautiful work that I can just listen to over and over. I really look forward to what Zhaaral might have in store for us next, but for now... the hardest part is choosing what song to sample below because they are all masterpieces.