SPECTRAL LORE — III (review)

SPECTRAL LORE — III album cover Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
More than any other genre of metal music, black metal seems to be the domain of the solo project. One such one man band is Spectral Lore, a Greek act by a musician going by the moniker Ayloss (also of Divine Element). III (2014), is, despite it's title, the fourth full-length album release from the project. A double disc effort, it can probably be considered Ayloss' most ambitious work to date. Between writing and recording the album took about five years to complete. During that time period, 2008-2013, Spectral Lore released its third album Sentinel (2012) along with a few splits including Sol (2013) with US labelmate Mare Cognitum, which was also part collaboration. I believe that this album is called III because Ayloss always intended this to follow II (2007). Sentinel, it seems, only came about due to Ayloss' frustrations with problems with production and mixing (information taken from a press release on III) and ended up being made so the musician could gather the skills he needed to complete III the way he wanted it to sound and was written and recorded in just three months, a massive difference compared to III. I happen to think that Sentinel is a pretty great album in its own right, however it's clear that a lot more care and dedication has been put into III. Ayloss seems to have gone all out with this one.

III is not what you may call an easy album. There's simply too much to take in for it to be the sort of album that would serve as the go-to for someone looking for a quick black metal fix. It's not really due to its length as although III is a double album the total time isn't actually that much longer than a single CD can hold, clocking in at around eighty-seven and a half minutes. That's still long, but it isn't quite as daunting to delve into as certain other long black metal albums I've come across, not least those by Spectral Lore's I, Voidhanger Records labelmate Midnight Odyssey where we're talking about over two full hours of music. Instead it's the music itself which proves really challenging and what ultimately makes III one of those albums that requires some real perseverance to get to grips with. The impatient among us with probably give up and go look for something more immediately satisfying. Those who can however give the album the dedication it deserves will find one of the most rewarding albums they're likely to ever come across.

While Spectral Lore is usually considered to be an atmospheric black metal act, I find that some of the music on III is actually quite dissonant in its delivery, which is where its difficult nature starts to come into play. Give the album a bit of time though and each track will give up their secrets and show off all the different ideas and moods that Ayloss has managed to incorporate into it, such as some really chaotic sounding stuff in The Veiled Garden or the triumphant sounds in A Rider Through the Lands of an Infinite Dreamscape. Elsewhere on the album, such as Drifting Through Moss and Ancient Stone, Ayloss largely turns away from black metal and towards ambient and dark folk influences, which you can still here in the black metal tracks at times, but here the focus switches around. III sways between two different extremes in this respect and the variety really makes the lengthy album work so well.

I like that Ayloss has taken the time to really develop these non-metal ideas as much as he has; many artists would use such things for a short throwaway interlude piece if they felt the need to offer their listener a breather from their usual extreme metal sound but not Spectral Lore. If anything it's these mostly less metal orientated tracks, another of which is the closing Cosmic Significance, that prove the early standouts when exploring III due to the cleaner sound compared to the black metal, which has a suitable level of rawness that old school fans of the genre are sure to appreciate. It does also have the slight downside though in that it makes the black metal tracks come across as being more subtle with their ideas and as such they take a few more listens before they really begin to reveal their own identities.

III is certainly a lot to take in, even if one tries to take it in two parts (which it is presented in – disc one is called Singularity and disc 2 is called Eternity). If your experience with the album is anything like mine has been it will take many listens before you can really say you've scratched the surface of what it offers. I'm at about a dozen listens to it now and I still feel as if I have more to discover. That's a rare kind of album. If there is an actual weak link in it all it would have to be that I don't really find Ayloss to have that much of a commanding presence as a growling vocalist, while also finding it difficult to follow what are actually some really substantial lyrics, but I don't feel as if my enjoyment of the album is affected too much by that. As a composer Ayloss has proven that he's one of the best in the genre with III, an album which I'd deem as being essential for anyone with a taste for black metal and the patience to appreciate everything the album offers. III may have taken Ayloss half a decade to complete, but I'd say it was time well spent. It's going to be interesting to hear how Ayloss is going to go about topping this.
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adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
You can stream all his stuff on Bandcamp Warthur: https://spectrallore.bandcamp.com/

While I'd say this one is definitely his best, Sentinel may prove a better introduction unless you feel like jumping in at the deep end. ;)

Some of the splits including Sol are free.

adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I just listened to II today and liked it a lot as well, especially the near 25 minute track The Thorns That Guide My Warpath. I thought that I suffered from poor production though.
Warthur wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Been meaning to get onto these guys for some time, I should really step that up and bite the bullet.
more than 2 years ago
Good review. I agree that its not an easy album, but it has become one of my favourites as well. Sol is brilliant as well while Sentinel seems to get underrated quite a bit. Haven't heard I or II yet though. The only release of his I have heard that didn't do much for me was Voyager. Not really my thing.
adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I can recommend Sentinel, the Sol split and the 'EP' Gnosis. EP in quotes because it's about 50 minutes long and on anyone else's standard that would be an album (in fact it slightly edges out the first actual Spectral Lore album).

This review proved one of the most difficult I've ever written, but it's also one of the ones I'm most proud of.

666sharon666 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Brilliant album. I don't know much about the artist beyond this though. Nice in depth review too.

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