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Album Review: ARS MAGNA UMBRAE Lunar Ascension

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For those in the loop, the first and often last word on avant-garde black metal is I, Voidhanger Records. It's a label that has released a ton of great and really powerful music over the last few years. They also seem to consistently find great new musicians. Such is the case with Ars Magna Umbrae, a Polish one-man black metal project whose debut full length, Lunar Ascension is a fascinating voyage into the world of dark and forward-thinking black metal. This is a record that showcases an oftentimes enormous breadth and whose scope is at times borderline terrifying.

Lunar Ascension is an inherently fascinating record that speaks to the transcendent and blissful power of black metal frequently mesmerizing the listener and the leaving them to rot. This is the sort of tormented and vile shit that you can't forget, but also the type of beauty and majesty that seems to point to bold new futures for the genre that we all know and love. The balance is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Lunar Ascension is an exploration in dynamic contrast. While the overall tone of the record is very dark, and there is none of the prettiness that so often plagues the genre here. Ars Magna Umbrae has a tendency to build on the interplay between dark ambient and acoustic tones crashing into fierce black metal riffs. This is all filtered through a sieve of influences including the likes of NightbringerBlut Aus Nord and Mare Cognitum. It makes for the sort of black metal record that shows a clear grasp of both the genres terribly beauty and the more abrasive elements that serve to draw us in.

These touches of transcendence only make me more addicted to what has been wrought. The sheer vastness of these songs and the seemingly bottomless guitar tone is the portal to a wellspring of hatred, a sonic nightmare that is going to draw you deep into the pit of human suffering. That all being said, some of the execution and songwriting still isn't quite where it needs to be. Certain tracks could delve deeper into their blasphemous ideas and it feels like Ars Magna Umbrae are far from realizing their true potential.

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This is black metal executed at the highest level, with an intent to tear the listener from anything safe or comforting and pull them into a Lovecraftian nightmare of their own conjuring.  Despite any touches of chaos Lunar Ascension remains a tightly controlled and highly refined record. It's an album that is going to pull you in on its own merits but which isn't afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. In a world where so much black metal will feel limited or bland, Ars Magna Umbrae have crafted something that is truly epic in scope and which brings honor to the I, Voidhanger name. Devout listeners will find themselves wandering the bleak labyrinth of this bands existence and pulling you towards ever darker shores. Cinematic in scope and constantly promising something more, Lunar Ascension will never let you look away.

Score: 8/10

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