Doom legends Celestial Season begin new trilogy into meaning with gothic, solemn ‘Mysterium I’

I’m not the avid reader that I want to be, but generally what sucks me into the habit is discovering a multi-book series that keeps my attention over a long period of time so that every time I finish one story, I’m already set to jump into the next one. I just finished The Southern Reach Trilogy, a warped sci-story told on many existential planes that occupied a good half a year for me.

I already was excited about a new record from doom heavyweights Celestial Season, but my interest was piqued even further learning this new opus “Mysterium I” is the first step in a trilogy of albums, parts II and III set for later 2022 and 2023, respectively. Having regrouped just a couple years ago for comeback record “The Secret Teachings,” their first in two decades, “Mysterium I” follows in its footsteps with more gothic-washed doom that reaches back to their earlier days and gems such as “Forever Scarlet Passion” and “Solar Lovers.” The current lineup—vocalist Stefan Ruiters, guitarists Olly Smit and Pim van Zanen, bassist Lucas van Slegtenhorst, violinist Jiska Ter Bals, cellist Elianne Anemaat, and drummer Jason Köhnen—were parts of those eras, and here they further examine ancient mysteries and reach for knowledge, a venture that started on the last record and will continue.

“Black Water Mirrors” opens with voices calling and the doom clouds sprawling, the strings glazing your mind. “I shall never touch you again,” Ruiters thunders, and the playing turns dark and gothic, calm tumbling with cold whispers, and then the track chugs again, the growls bubble, and the spirit disappears into the fog. “The Golden Light of Late Day” breaks open with drums and abject misery with the strings leaving a somber lather. Words drip as the playing takes on a deliberate pace, misty chills sent down your spine, acoustics disappearing in the air. “Sundown Transcends Us” begins with guitars lighting up, the riffs flowing and steaming. Growls scrape as the guitars leave bruising, and then the energy returns and shifts, the strings dusting off the surface. Emotional punches land, the guitars carve paths, and the track ends in echoed ambiance.

“This Glorious Summer” rumbles in murk as beastly, wrenching power vibrates, and the simple chorus sticks in your brain. Things get gnarlier as the track ages, mauling rises amid moody leads, growls send up smoke, and a strange haze settles overhead before disintegrating. “Endgame” fires up hard with bustling riffs and deep growls, and things get even heavier as the melodies corrode and the guitars explore. Things turn morbid in a hurry as strings glide and pain increases, ending with bloody power. “All That Is Known” dawns gently as the playing slowly stomps, and the strings increase as the melody rains down. Growls creep into cavernous sections, guitars and strings weep, and delicate whispers lead the track into the light. “Mysterium” is the closer, entering in atmospheric pressure as strings expand, and dark, gothy waters flow. Growls gurgle as the guitars beam like lasers through fog, making your mind wander as speaking delivers ominous messages. The final moments get heavier and moodier, the thorns pushing into your flesh as the track bleeds out.

A band with a resume as impressive as Celestial Season’s doesn’t need to add anything else to their repertoire as they’ve proven themselves and influenced scores of other bands. Yet what they offer up on “Mysterium I” actually manages to beef up their already powerful collection and ties us back to earlier eras of the Celestial Season’s existence. This is a journey into ancient mythos, secrets that are part of our DNA, and an experience with gothic doom and death that absolutely levels you and is just cracking the surface of this mission.

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