06/09/2011

Review: Profane Grace – Nocturnal Omniscience

Ewers Tonkunst/Indiestate Distribution, 2010


Tracklisting:

1) Nocturnal Omniscience
2) Mourning The Ancient
3) From Shadowlands… Dying…
4) …Of Virtuous Grievance
5) Guardian Of The Astral Gate
6) Sardonic Burial
7) The Resurrection Of Immorbium
8) Trilogy Of The Unangled Plane III
9) Hymns To Selket

Now here’s an artist whose work I’ve wanted to review for a while, and not just because this is his first release in many years. Profane Grace is an American dark ambient project stemming from a black metal background, which is a conversion process that I’ve always found very interesting. Not only is the overlap of the two genres interesting in itself, but the elements that inevitably seep through from a black metal artist’s heritage make for a very peculiar spice. However, it can turn out bad just as easily, as is the case with any genre fusion of any extent.

The black metal influence on “Nocturnal Omniscience” is more obvious visually than sonically, however, as can be seen from the cover already – a patch of forest in the middle of the night, surrounded by complete darkness. The music itself is actually tamer and more inviting than you may think. It starts as a pleasant mix of cinematic and ritual ambiences, not unlike certain works of Nordvargr, drawing the listener in with ease. However, there is one feature that you’re bound to notice almost as soon as the album starts, which is the presence of growled vocals. Don’t worry, death metal isn’t coming our way any time soon; the vocals are buried deep in the mix, with the intention of enhancing the sound image and contributing to the ritual aspect of the album. I fully understand if you’re getting suspicious or deterred, but you needn’t be – it works to a (perhaps surprisingly) great effect.

As the album progresses, the composition gets more and more minimalistic, scrapping the cinematic feeling for a deeper kind of soundscape. In fact, one of this album’s main qualities lies in the fact that it doesn’t opt for the so-called balanced approach, trying to keep up with a single rhythm between tracks all the way to the end; instead, the artist consciously envisions two poles of his work and creates a full-length bridge between them. Unlike the first couple of tracks, by the time you’ve reached “Trilogy Of The Unangled Plane III”, the sound will have become much more monolithic and massive, droning on for longer. The best part is that you won’t even notice the gargantuan track length of the final tracks, each being 10+ minutes long. The structure therefore feels narrative and logical, as the album title suggests – you may have started the descent in the middle of the night in a forest, but the goal is to feel the essential pulses of nature, deprived of sensory qualities.

While “Nocturnal Omniscience” doesn’t sound particularly ground-breaking or mind-boggling, it offers a very interesting experience that translates into sound well enough to capture your attention and deserve repeated listens. Its value lies in that it brings ritual ambience in a more accessible and layered form, making it one of the best examples of the subgenre I’ve heard up to now. Recommended to all ritual ambient fans and even more to all others, as strange as that may sound.

8/10

Official Profane Grace website
Profane Grace @ MySpace