My recent taste for black metal seemed to pan towards the ambient/atmospheric variety, with bands like Fen, Winterfylleth, and Wodensthrone being regulars on my daily playlist of late. Yet few bands really manage to create the perfect atmosphere to communicate the emotions as well as they potentially could. Enter Belgium’s Soul Dissolution, with their sophomore full length album, Stardust.
The first thing that really grabbed my attention though is the beautiful artwork on Stardust, a mixture of calmness of the night sea, and the wonders of the cosmos – almost leading me to think if this were gonna be an atmospheric version of the recent Vyre that I reviewed.
Instead, there is a certain sense of beauty that is present on Soul Dissolution‘s material. The cinematic opener Vision leaves one feeling almost as though one were watching a prelude to an epic war scene. And while Stardust is far from a visual experience, the band puts the listener through an aural experience that is of equal epic proportions. Circle of Torment introduces the band’s brand of black metal to the listener, at equal parts aggressive and melancholic. The crushing riffs that instrumentalist Jabawock creates is contrasted by that lone lead melody that is constantly present at the background. One often can’t help feeling that sadness and desperation that is brought out by the vocals of Acharan and his soul-soaked growls and shrieks. At the same time, there is that little bit of folkish elements mixed into the atmospherics, that is rather reminiscent of the works of Fen or Winterfylleth.
What really made Stardust such an engaging listen is the whole cauldron of emotions that the band manages to conjure, and evoke in the listener. Many moments on the album, one finds himself at the crossroads of rather conflicting emotions, first with the negativity and hopelessness in the vocals of Acharan, then with the beautiful backdrop that Jabawock creates, almost giving one some semblance of light at the end of the tunnel.
The production on Stardust is stellar, with an impressive soundstage that provides one with a completely immersive listening experience. There is sufficient rawness in allowing the pure energy of the band to infect the listener, yet modern enough to provide for a rather clean sound as a result, especially key in the inclusion of the synths and orchestration on the album. For instance, the way the production synergises with the musical style of the band is best heard on the instrumental interlude Mountain Path, leading to The Last Farewell.
There have been many times where a band releases an album with breathtaking artwork, only to leave listeners feeling overhyped, and underwhelmed in its actual material. Fortunately Soul Dissolution manages to bring across their message effectively, and suitably, with Stardust.