This is the time of the year that the dreaded seasonal disorder starts to rear its ugly head with winter nearly on our doorsteps. It gets dark earlier, and the sunshine so many of us vitally need for our mental health is in short supply. It’s very real, and I’ve seen it in my own life manifest itself and drive misery and hopelessness deep into one’s psyche.
If you seek a musical accompaniment to that phenomenon or just need a dark friend with which to share the experience, “Mysterium II” is as good as anything else you might find. The second release this year from long-running Dutch death-doom vets Celestial Season packs that morbid and dismal punch you might be seeking. Over six tracks that serve generous portions of heavy shadows, the band—vocalist Stefan Ruiters, guitarists Olly Smit and Pim van Zanen, bassist Lucas van Slegtenhorst, violinist Jiska Ter Bals, cellist Elianne Anemaat, drummer Jason Köhnen—dig deeply into themselves to lather this record with thunderous highs and gut-wrenching lows, an ideal piece of music for this time of the year. It also speaks to the band’s ambition that this second in a trilogy of albums arrives a mere seven months after “Mysterium I” dropped in April, and this also is their third record since returning to action two years ago after a two-decade layoff. If they’re making up for lost time, they are doing it as prolifically and powerfully as humanly possible.
“The Divine Duty of Servants” begins under doomy, cloudy skies as the growls slither, and the atmosphere grows more ominous as it develops. The tempo lurches as the mystery builds, the playing launches cement blocks, and the growls crush as the horizon darkens as the fog swallows everything whole. “Tomorrow Mourning” enters amid quivering strings and menacing growls as the playing keeps pounding harder, and heavy sorrow encompasses everything, slipping into bleary guitars and the feeling that the edge of the night is permanent. The leads take on a David Gilmour weepiness, the pace wrenches and squeezes the breath from your lungs, and voices warble as the strings scar and leave blood streaks behind. “Our Nocturnal Love” is an instrumental piece built on teary piano, strings lathering, and heavy emotion pushing the moon over the sky, knifing open an entrance for a storm.
“In April Darkness” dawns with beaming guitars and whirring strings as the growls begin to gut. The guitars then get even more foreboding as morbidity spreads its wings, layers are built on top of each other as the emotions get more intense, and the melodies lap onto the glass-covered shore. “The Sun the Moon and the Truth” opens with guitars drizzling and a slow, somber ambiance becoming an early factor. An angelic haze mixes with fiery playing, rupturing as the heavy growls knife ribcages, and the strings sweep in order to amplify the sadness. The playing crushes slowly, the darkness flourishes, and the final moments drive the dagger deeper. Closer “Pictures of Endless Beauty – Copper Sunset” practically melts in streams from ice, the vocals slithering with the emerging strings. Clouds get thicker and grayer, and tormented melodies add pressure to your heart, the guitars flowing painfully and sorrowfully. A somber glaze bleeds over top, the playing continues to flow with force, and the final embers leave the intimidating horizon devoid of light.
Celestial Season haven’t let a moment slip by them, adding “Mysterium II” to the first volume released earlier this year and giving us another gloomy chapter to end this dying year. The melancholic and thorny approach to this record makes for fitting late-autumn listening when the light expires early, and seasonal disorders begin tapping on our tired shoulders. This is dark, beautiful, and sinister, a record that lives alongside your pain and fears and makes them less intimidating to address.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CelestialSeason
To buy the album, go here: https://www.burningworldrecords.com/collections/burning-world-records
For more on the label, go here: https://www.burningworldrecords.com/