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BEYOND LIGHT  Paintings In The Hall  CD   (Maa Productions)   12.99
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Things get really miserable on album number two from Dutch experimental black metaller Beyond Light, another one-man band delivering the sort of intoxicatingly mournful gloom-bliss that Japanese label Maa has been cornering the market on. Sole member Belfalas offers his own odd take on the "depressive" black metal sound, mostly made up of writhing minimalist riffs and droning blackness woven around some great, uber-gloomy melodies and the occasional ripping black n' roll hook. Belfalas whips out lots of soaring hard rock solos over his rumbling old-school black metal attack, but also leads the songs into sometimes unexpected territory, scattering passages of sorrowful classical piano amid the heavier metallic songs, or slipping from the furious, slightly off-kilter black metal of "Painted Memories" into a strange freeform soundscape of wheezing harmonica and distant rumbling sounds of warfare. The songwriting is actually pretty weird, with lots of awkward, angular riffs and odd tempo changes that throw this stuff off kilter by a few degrees, but it's also quite beautiful at times, too, especially when those piano instrumentals come in, gorgeously maudlin passages of heartbroken melody and weeping string sections, or the lush, dreamy darkwave that emerges across the beginning of "Her Broken Face", resembling some classic 80's era gothic rock draped in acoustic guitars and that ghostly piano, distant wailing vocals drifting over washes of chorus-drenched guitar, leading into the sudden shift into regal black metal that kicks in about half way in, which itself makes way eventually for a monstrous blackened groove towards the end that would make Khold proud.

The album also features some terrific flights of Floydian spaciness that ascend from the remnants of Beyond Light's buzzsaw black n' roll, blurts of blighted Sabbathian doom-groove, passages of lovely dusty folkiness overlaid with harmonica that recalls Neil Young's early stuff, and smatterings of an almost Ved Buens Ende-esque dissonance that all contribute to a creative take on the "DSBM" aesthetic. And the vocals are mostly delivered as a hushed, menacing whisper buried beneath layers of distortion and grit...as with a lot of the bands in this vein that I dig, there's a bit of a Katatonia vibe going on with the more subdued gloom-rock parts; there's one song in particular on this album, "Her Cold Hands", which is one of the catchiest black metal songs I've heard in ages, and it pairs up the band's apparent love of vintage goth rock tones and ragged black metal riffery better than anything else on this disc, producing a particularly riveting anthem to personal desolation. It takes a few songs for Paintings In The Hall to really get it's footing, but once it does, it delivers a distinctive sound that's equal parts contempo black metal, weather-beaten folk and arty gothic gloom.


Track Samples:
Sample : BEYOND LIGHT-Paintings In The Hall
Sample : BEYOND LIGHT-Paintings In The Hall
Sample : BEYOND LIGHT-Paintings In The Hall