Artist: Whispers In The Shadow
Title: Beyond The Cycles Of Time
Genre: Gothic Rock
Release Date: 4th April 2014
Label: Solar Lodge
It is done… completion… the journey is finished, Ourobus appeared from the veil finally and the snake is kissing its own tail… With ‘Beyond The Cycles Of Time’, WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW, probably Austria´s longest serving Goth-Rock outfit (being around for 18 years now), released the last album of a tetralogy, contextually deeply rooted in that hidden wisdom, the uninitiated names light-minded occultism, sourcing it´s revelations and lyrical influences from such illustrious names like Crowley, Swedenborg, Grant and Spare (but we have to find a pinch of Lovecraft, Dick and Burroughs later too...), through which we dive down into the murky waters of some of the essential writings, belief systems, lore, myths and trips dealing with gods and men, angels and demons (if we´re assume it´s not the same just watched from a different point of view) and altered states of consciousness, encrypted in them. Roughly skipping we could start with the creation myths of Sumer and Egypt and the Greek mystery schools, go on with the Bible and the Kabbalah, pass Hermeticism, Gnosticism and Sufism and enter the intertwined spiritual realms of theosophy, chaos magic and further manifestations of the Western Esoteric tradition. But I think I get lost in details...
All right! Up to here it is not that innovative yet (there´s no need to stress the occult influence on rock music, ranging from BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN to BOWIE and THE BEATLES, or better to name a few musical next-door influences of WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW like FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM or GARDEN OF DELIGHT, who dealt with the same topic a few aeons earlier), but Ashley Dayour and his troops furthermore dared to take the ambitious approach to create analogies with their last musical outputs to the four stages of the alchemical transformative process, namely Nigredo (Blackening), Albedo (Whitening), Citrinitas (Yellowing) and Rubedo (Reddening). I grant this may sound a bit "colourful" for outsiders, but theirs are not the ears that opus was made for I´m convinced profoundly. So it’s quite difficult now to analyse and to evaluate this purpose in its wholeness (guess it would overwork context and alertness) and actually the spotlight is only shown on the current release here, the above mentioned ‘Beyond the Cycles of Time’. But for getting your head around the spheres we're moving in lyrically and musically there's still some tedious theory needed, namely the nature of the fourth stage of the alchemic transformative process this albums claims to be an analogy for.
Briefly outlined the Rubedo (or Reddening) is distinguished by the desire to incarnate an illuminated consciousness back into mind and body, cause we left stage three (or the last album) in state of pure spirit, a pure intelligence beyond space, time and form but without a consciousness of body and mind. So we now have to let this conscious state of pure spirit die the "Red Death", hence the name, as an individual soul that desires to be embodied without the sense of separation from its original pure state. Only when the soul is finally incarnated in mind and body (or psyche) it can realise its state of spiritual completeness, the unit of heaven and earth, the alchemical marriage (or the merging of ego and self as Jung called it). I confess this is a very simple and sketchy explanation now but it keeps us on the track to the inevitable question: What has this to do with the album?
Delving among the words it gets clear that Mr Dayour weaves a web of all kinds of mystic references avidly, from the Sumerian mythology to the gospel according to Matthew, from the mind-set of a Joseph Campbell (mystic and adherent to C. G. Jung) to the chaos magic of spare and from the shamanism of Crowley right up to the kabbalah-influenced word magic of a William S. Burroughs. But among all the archetypes we meet (or clichés as detractors would call it), like snakes and shadows, symbols and kings, chaos and infinity it feels a bit like missing a combining content (except the esoteric varnish), a direction or a deductive structure a cycle implies. Like loosely laid threads we get served invocations, incantations, revelations and apocalyptic sceneries, but it lacks of a interwoven texture, something that makes the single tracks become parts of a linear big picture, become more than just 11 random songs or quotations from a grimoire with missing pages! But more than the introversive gravity I miss the bridge to the self-imposed analogy topic! It´s hard to find any clear and apparent references to the above mentioned spiritual transformation, what awakes some kind of confusion! Okay, maybe I´m just an uninitiated, scratching illiterately just the surface, while losing my way among the pictures, allegories and metaphors, but "...so this is departure, so this is goodbye, the last chapter is now written, into chaos we fly...", as the last song ‘The Departure’ goes, is definitely not what the last stage of the alchemical transformation should result in! Just the opposite!
But maybe we should join that leaving now thematically and put the focus on the music, because that´s what it´s really about, eh? Being certain about the musical language to use, they play skilfully with the stylistically required letters; sawing guitars are circling almighty through the skies, forming whirls and tempests through which the straight drums are whipping ahead, flanked by pumping bass quavers and an electronic guidon. Most of the tracks are epic monsters, like ‘Crossroads’, ‘The Sacrament’, ‘The End of Future’ or the mentioned ‘The Departure’, scraped out from tangible structures like verse and chorus or dominating melodies. There is a sublime ritual mood to perceive, tribal moments in the scent of burning incense and a variety of spoken samplings. Like a serpent Dayour´s vocals wriggle and wind through the bars and scales, driven by energy and enthusiasm, self-sacrificing. Paradoxically it´s in the moments of the highest musical density, at the energetic peaks when it fails to keep the pace with the power and the pressure of the instruments, loses ground like a flame in a spot. So its best moments are the more quiet ones, the eyes of the storm like the PLACEBO-esque ‘Safe & Sound’ or the great ‘Left Hand Anthem’, which stand out for their sidestepping from the album´s general bleak and hypothermic atmosphere, so like the lovely and heavily BOWIE-influenced ‘Adversarial Light’, what seems to jump directly from ‘Low´s’ second side, mirroring not only its atmosphere but also simulating scrupulously that analogue synth-sounds. Obviously more than an ovation!
So, after all these shed words I can say ‘Beyond The Cycles Of Time’ is a good album, keeping the way up the band has taken from the melancholic, CURE-like Darkwave of the early days to the current shamanic Goth-Rock state. Surely it is not a stylistic earthquake, but I think they have staked out their territory being aware of their skills to fill it convincingly and skilfully. Still I´m convinced that it would have worked better without the strained topical corset, (what makes it feel a bit clenched and constricted, leading to the damped hopes in such a magnum opus), because the songs are well made and atmospherically arranged, but seem to suffocate a bit from the weight of their occult content. But who am I to play with veiled fire? So if this is the end of a chapter I´m quite curious about next to come…!
“The more necessary anything appears to my mind, the most certain it is that I only assert a limitation.” (A. Crowley)
02. His name is Legion
03. Left Hand Anthem
04. The Sacrament
05. Safe & Sound
06. Lilitu´s Claws
08. Agent of Chaos
09. The End of Future
10. Adversarial Light
11. The Departure
Ashley Dayour – Vocals, Guitars
Fork – Bass
Martin Acid – Keyboards
Lazy Schulz – Guitars
Reinhard Schwarzinger– Drums
http://noizeart.com / https://www.facebook.com/WhispersInTheShadow
Total: 7 / 10