As Blades In The Firmament
As good as it was, Heirloom Of Sullen Fall obviously wasn’t good enough for Monte Penumbra to use it as a blueprint upon which they would steadily build and develop their sound. Instead, they deviated from that particular blueprint so much that As Blades In The Firmament has hardly anything left in common with its eight year older predecessor. And unlike Heirloom Of Sullen Fall that was a collection of vastly different songs, of which almost every single one had something peculiar and seductive about it, As Blades In The Firmament sounds rather uniform, hermetic, and inaccessible.
There are, of course, moments of memorable songwriting to be found on the record, but those moments are unfortunately few and far between this time around, scattered unevenly throughout the forty-odd minutes of music. Still, despite somewhat unvarying content, As Blades In The Firmament comes across as massive, monolithic, and imposing, so much so that many of its drawbacks easily grow pale in comparison, and seem considerably less substantial. The fact that they dared to explore the unknown and jump into the abyss without a safety net is certainly commendable in and of itself, but at the same time, it’s hard to deny that, while breaking ties with their own past, Monte Penumbra failed to morph into something that is as idiosyncratic and recognizable.
In terms of the aesthetics, the sound, and to a certain extent even the song structures, As Blades In The Firmament regrettably feels way too reminiscent of recent works by Slidhr, Svartidauði, and (almost unavoidable) Deathspell Omega, contrary to Heirloom Of Sullen Fall that didn’t sound quite like any other band that was around at that time. Listening to the latter now, one could even argue that, with songs like Dark Figure or The Trident And A Vagrant for example, Heirloom still sounds as personal, unique, and relevant as it did the day it came out. It remains to be seen if As Blades In The Firmament will be reflected upon with the same sentiment eight years from now.
That said, regardless of its flaws and shortcomings, there is something about As Blades In The Firmament that makes it a satisfying listen. It is immediately evident that the band left no stone unturned trying to make the album as good as possible, and one cannot help but respect that. As said, there are moments of truly remarkable craftsmanship on it that are easy to appreciate, but even when in-between them, the lavish sound of the record alone will probably be enough to make you feel good about it.
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