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Cistvaen - At Light's Demise review




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Reviewer:
8.6

107 users:
8.05
Band: Cistvaen
Album: At Light's Demise
Style: Atmospheric black metal
Release date: April 2024


01. At Light's Demise
02. Cessation Of Hope
03. The Epitaph
04. Time The Mournful
05. Bleak House
06. Silver Birch
07. The Blind Observer

As stated by John Steinbeck in The Winter Of Our Discontent, "It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone", and this is true for Cistvaen; here, they offer atmospheric black in the darkest of forms with At Light's Demise.

Cistvaen (translated as "stone coffin") are a UK-based atmospheric black metal band formed by Lee Meade (guitars), James "Drakkar" Mardon (bass), and Mark Sanders (guitars) back in 2016, after which they were soon joined by Guy Taylor (vocals) and Ed Wilcox (drums). Despite the band being around for a fairly lengthy 8 years, it's only now that they've managed to present their full-length debut At Light's Demise, following 2021 debut EP Under The Silent Meadow Skies. This is an album that's been 5 years in the making, with tracks being written as far back as 2019; much of this lengthy gestation occurred during the turbulent times of the global pandemic, and the album's sorrowful theme reflects on the emotional trauma that surrounded the band on a personal level during this turmoil.

Featuring 7 stunningly written and exceptionally performed tracks (including the short interlude "Silver Birch") with a total running length of just shy of an hour, At Light's Demise primarily focuses on a bleak atmospheric black metal style. However, various other styles have been appropriately introduced, from blackgaze and DSBM to post-black and death doom, and throughout you'll hear a wide range of influences, including acts such as Winterfylleth, Alcest, Wolves In The Throne Room, My Dying Bride and Swallow The Sun.

The album begins with the epic opening title track, one of 5 songs to have a length of over 9 minutes. Written during the pandemic, this track encapsulates the sorrow and despair felt for those who could not see, or even lost, loved ones during the lockdowns in a way that is quite simply remarkable. From ferocious blackened tremolos to sweeping, majestic, melancholic mid-to-slow doomy riffs, the guitar work is a marvellous work of art. The guitars work exceptionally well alongside a fantastic rhythm section in the form of complex bass lines, with an incredibly powerful presence, and furious blast beats, which alternate with thunderous rolling drum beats. The mournful soundscapes are then brought to life all the more by beautifully dark synth work, and best of all, passionately performed vocals, where you can really feel the pain touch your very soul through the blackened shrieks that cry out in utter despair.

Now, if you think the album is going to lose its emotional spark after such a promising opener you can think again; the melancholic side of this album is so sorrowful it can be genuinely hard to stomach at times. Despite the following track "Cessation Of Hope" starting off in similar fashion to the opener, you're met by a breathtaking moment midway in, where one of the greatest acoustic passages I've heard in recent years builds towards a tremendous melancholic doomy riff break. "The Epitaph" then takes this sorrowful journey up a notch, through yet more beautifully constructed acoustic guitar work, along with exceptional weeping leads. The second half of the track is where the tempo rapidly increases; here, blast beats and tremolos surge through with more devastating force, and the vocals become harsher and more aggressive, yet it manages to retain that element of death doom melancholy.

From here the structure does start to become less surprising, perhaps even a tad repetitive, but at this point some listeners will be completely engaged and hypnotized to the point where they wouldn't want the flow to become disrupted in any way. The best half of the album may be over at this point, but that's not to say the quality drops significantly at all; there are still moments that really stand out. One such moment comes in the closing stages of the track "Time The Mournful", where the vocal performance reaches a staggering high, as if the vocalist is about to reach his breaking point. The elements that I mentioned when describing the opening track feature pretty much throughout the album, sometimes even repeating melodies on riffs already used several times over. However, "Bleak House" offers a slightly different approach. This track contains a strikingly more upbeat rhythm section, and it's less doom- and blackgaze-oriented, as post-black elements are introduced here to add more dynamics to the atmospheric soundscapes.

Cistvaen is a band that already sound like seasoned atmospheric black veterans, despite this only being their full-length debut, and so At Light's Demise is a tremendous achievement in that regard. Through masterfully crafted melancholic songwriting, and a top-tier passionate musicianship performance, At Light's Demise has proven to be more than worth the wait, and could well become one of the standout albums in atmospheric black this year.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Production: 8





Written on 12.04.2024 by Feel free to share your views.


Comments

Comments: 7   Visited by: 119 users
13.04.2024 - 11:18
ForestsAlive
I don’t understand the excitement for this album. Most of it sounds pretty generic to me. I guess I need to give it another go.
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13.04.2024 - 13:05
Rating: 9
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by ForestsAlive on 13.04.2024 at 11:18

I don’t understand the excitement for this album. Most of it sounds pretty generic to me. I guess I need to give it another go.

It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea, and tbh I didn't expect it to receive such a positively high reception, as this style is often very hit and miss. This time everything just happens to fall in the right place for me, from the melodies to atmosphere, and the emotional aspects seem to really strike a chord with me on a personal level.
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13.04.2024 - 13:15
nikarg
Staff
Written by AndyMetalFreak on 13.04.2024 at 13:05

the emotional aspects seem to really strike a chord with me on a personal level.

And this is what music is all about.

Great review, Andy; they almost write themselves when it's something you enjoy so much, don't they? Also, love your intro, it's very fitting for this album.
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13.04.2024 - 13:20
Rating: 9
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by nikarg on 13.04.2024 at 13:15

Written by AndyMetalFreak on 13.04.2024 at 13:05

the emotional aspects seem to really strike a chord with me on a personal level.

And this is what music is all about.

Great review, Andy; they almost write themselves when it's something you enjoy so much, don't they? Also, love your intro, it's very fitting for this album.

Thanks for the kind words although I've found alot of releases this year to my liking, this is the first album to really touch me deeply. Hopefully there will be more to come like this by end of the year.
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13.04.2024 - 17:27
Rating: 7
Vellichor
Great review, that’s really high praise for you! I wasn’t quite as taken with it but maybe with more time with it it will continue to grow. I did like Time the Mournful and Bleak House a lot.
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17.04.2024 - 17:19
Rating: 9
TrendHater
This is easily my #1 for the year so far.

Discovered by pure chance from BMP yt channel, love it.

The piercing tremolo leads cutting through the sludgier doom aspects really works.

As a bonus, there is actual clear, excellent bass playing on this album and while the vocals are sorta standardish, they are also done well.
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10.05.2024 - 11:52
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Great review, thanks. Put on my Monday listening list.
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