Avantgarde Music, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
I feel like every year I spend scouring the Black Metal record labels for that one gem that will, hopefully, define the year for me. Last year Csejthe was that band, in fact the majority of the Québécois scene simply entranced me, but this year has left me with a rather lackluster search. I've purchased only a small amount of material from 2014, nothing really grasping my imagination in the same way. There have been some very good releases and I have thankfully found new projects like Infamous that really struck a chord with me, but this... this Earth and Pillars, this is something different. This is special.
Just opening this package up provides arresting beauty for the listener. The packaging is simply stunning and I'm glad to see Avantgarde is dedicated to continue this art form. Music is more than just a recording, it's the whole package and Earth and Pillars clearly understands this. This album, "Earth I", which leads to the hope that there will be future installments, creates a wonderfully bleak, yet majestic vision of our planet. Looking through the artwork and lyrics really nails that sense to the listener making this listen even more imperative with a physical copy in my hands. The album opens with five minutes of an Ambient styled track. While this would be a full song for most bands, Earth and Pillars follows in the footsteps of Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace with extremely long songs following this. "Earth" gives the sense of travelling a fog laden forest, where a copse of trees opens into a bending river. From here the album follows a theme of water, which makes me wonder if the band intends to follow a concept series amidst the elements found on the planet. I would think it would perhaps follow a theme of the old Greek Atomic Theory of the four elements, but with "Earth" being the first track, perhaps that will not be the case. We wend our way through the beauty of the Earth's surface, which is mostly covered in water and the album keeps a sort of "flow" feel to every song. At times we are calmed by the gentle rocking of the rhythms, but tempestuous waves can grow and become quite a concern for travelers where fear begins to develop in the likes of "Tides". The Paysage d'Hiver influence grows bigger in this song with the droning Ambience in the middle, but I think Earth and Pillars is a bit more sensible with its inclusion of Ambience. There isn't a point where it just becomes overwhelming and droning on for nigh ten minutes in length, here it is kept as a sensible portion of the song.
Earth and Pillars has brought me on, probably, the greatest journey I'll hear all year. As someone who purchases nearly a hundred albums a year, this one is standing tall above the rest so far. Shockingly, I may even fall to this more often than the latest from the might Darkspace. Perhaps it is simply because it is new, but the atmosphere being created here is exactly what I wanted to hear this year. "Earth I" paints a beautiful picture of our planet, but there is an underlying taint, a dark bleakness to it. I feel like this has a slightly different bend on the environmentally themed work. It doesn't feel as much a worship of nature, as there is an underlying failing in the world around us. The Earth, itself, isn't dying, the environment is changing so that it will no longer sustain life in this form. So, while we can marvel at the glory of nature, we must remind ourselves that in the near future the Earth may not sustain life in the way we recognize it, namely our own. Do we mourn a world whose environment is changing in a way that will ultimately kill off humanity, or is this to be celebrated? I feel like these bleak indecision is where the Earth and Pillars album takes me.
In the end, if you are a fan of Atmospheric Black Metal, I absolutely consider this a must buy. It will likely hit my top five releases for this year very easily, if not number one. Very well done.