A band’s ability to be “loud for the sake of being loud” is just a performance vanity feature. A much more powerful quality (and skill) is the ability to control volume and use its varying wavelengths intricately within their songwriting, giving the listener a transcendent experience. Over 20 years, Year of No Light have meticulously mastered this detail in their songwriting across their material, giving listeners an experience that surpasses the aural plane and evokes atmospheric visuals ranging from the violent creation of the cosmos to grey/black and colorized depictions of desolate and thriving natural landscapes.
Consolamentum, their new album in eight years, proves the French sextet hasn’t waned at this skill and has matured more as a unit. Mathieu Mégemont (drums, keys, synths) mentions the process of making Consolamentum was more focused and disciplined than the process of Tocsin’s production.
Mégemont notes the presence of awareness between all six on this LP lacked during the show of Tocsin due to confrontational egos, and the band being in a chaotic state prevented the group from functioning together as a cohesive unit. The eight-year gap allowed the band to resolve this with individual self-auditing, accepting their strengths and weaknesses in the lineup, and regaining discipline in writing and instrument practice to improve the unit.
Over the two-decade course of Year of No Light’s career, they’ve risen release by release to becoming behemoths in the post-metal and avant-garde world while keeping a low public profile in the process. That’s fine because, for a band that’s written such a cathartic effort like Ausserwelt, tag-teamed with the droning landscapes of Thisquietarmy and the pedal-to-the-metal extremities of Altar of Plagues (among others) on split releases, and made their film scoring debut with a chillingly ambient take on Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr, their work is more than capable of speaking for this band, and it’s a working strategy.
Their attention to detail isn’t just exclusive to their music; each album has sophisticated packaging designs that discreetly reveal the central motif around a linear theme of man’s ruin and deliverance, starting on 2006’s Nord.
The press release accompanying this album has the band describing their back catalog like a “thread” focusing on humanity’s spiritual beliefs and principles in various stages. Suppose Year of No Light’s albums intend to formulate a story regarding spirituality, peril, and deliverance. Each release is mapped out in a narrative structure. In that case, Consolamentum could be considered the falling action here before the story’s untimely end of either salvation or damnation being the outcome.
The five tracks on Consolamentum give you the feeling that the end of times is approaching with their trademark combination of doom, post-metal, shoegaze, and electronic arrangements beautifully orchestrated and performed like a sonic maelstrom. The opening 3:02 minutes of the 12-minute-long “Objuration” play out like a heretic ceremony is underway with brooding amplification.
Sinister-sounding organ pipes fill the room before an unhinged low-end doom metal sound, and a death march cadence crushes the listener at the 3:03 mark. From there on, the different passages of “Objuration” show the artistry of these six rumbling percussion battles with harmonious and heavy guitars and eerie and commanding keys work to make it seem as if Year of No Light are channeling their inner Modest Mussorgsky for their destructive version of the Chernobog epic, Night on Bald Mountain.
Keeping in line with the track makeup of Ausserwelt and Tocsin, Consolamentum’s five instrumentals are dynamic in arrangement and play out like a film score set to evoke specific emotions in each passage. From the opening seconds up until 8:00 of “Interdit aux Vivants, aux Morts et aux Chiens,” the band rips through a doom metal orchestra-like arrangement that sounds like the soundtrack highlighting a sense of dread stemming from an eyewitness account of the citizens of an occupied city staring down a bleak future as an outside army rolls through their land and subjects onto the conquered people the oppressive rule of their regime.
At the 8:00 mark, the band turns the dial with a rush of drums up-ticking the tempo and sheets of feedback and keys, sparking a sense of hope as the occupied start their sabotage campaign against their oppressors. The track that shows new influences in the form of the industrial and electronic genre is the concluding gothic, cyberpunk number “Came,” which explosively concludes Consolamentum at its 6:50 mark through a cannon fire of polyphonies from all six members.
An eight-year silence results in a high-quality record, one worthy of more attention than it will get. Year of No Light are an extraordinary band; appreciate them while they’re still around. Order Consolamentum via their Bandcamp. (Matthew Hutchison)