Midnight Odyssey

With only 100 copies pressed, I never would have heard about Midnight Odyssey had it not been for TOTD-forum member timshel, who has a bloodhound’s knack for sniffing out obscure, arty avant-garde black metal gems. In this case, it’s a one-man ambient black metal project from Brisbane, Australia that blends the mysterious wanderings and tortured screams of classic Burzum with a black/shoegazer approach.

Speaking of Burzum, I recently gave the long-awaited Belus a few spins, and although I appreciate the thickened production and renewed intensity, it’s never as atmospheric or as haunting as some of my favorite tracks like “Dunkelheit,” “Tomhet” or “Det Som Engang Var.” So I have to say that Midnight Odyssey‘s Firmament is the more transportive and affecting of the two.

Starting with “From Forest to Firmament,” and ending with “From Firmament to Forest,” the album suspends the listener in a dreamlike twilight for nearly an hour. Glittering stars, blazing coils of Aurora Borealis and endless forest, like a phalanx of shadows and sentinels stretched to the horizon: all are conjured by Dis Pater’s mesmerizing compositions.

His palette is simple, but effective. Chiming tones, the soft ebb and flow of synths and ambiance, and crashing, rhythmic waves of guitar. Sometimes they slow to a funereal drone (“Salvation Denied”) and occasionally they scramble forward on icy fingers (“As Dark and Ominous as Stormclouds”), but their melodies are always fluid and hypnotic. A warmer, early 90s shoegaze tone blooms out on “Nocturnal Prey,” whereas follow-up “Departing Flesh and Bone” returns to a more subterreanean and martial sound, which recalls Dol Guldur-era Summoning. And a couple of tracks – “A Host for Ghosts,” “Storms of Fire and Ice” – are almost completely ambient, like Tangerine Dream or Vangelis in their darkest moods.

In fact, Firmament would be a very soothing experience if it weren’t for the vocals, which are definitely the darkest and most aggressive element here. They’re a ragged, hollow yowl, drenched in feedback and echo, and certainly on the weirder side of black metal vocals. They go beyond early Varg towards the shrieks of In the Woods or the insane Elmo-scream of Japan’s Gnome, and as the voice of a lost spirit (or a crying orc, if you will), they fit the music perfectly.

Needless to say, Firmament is not the kind of album you’re going to randomly throw on during a sunny drive or if you need to jam out some energy. This is strictly late-night, quiet time or solitary listening, when your mind is most able to wander and explore. I, Voidhanger Records, a spin-off of Italian label ATMF, has signed Midnight Odyssey for distribution, and it should be more widely available come March. If Belus left you a bit cold but you’re still looking for your next black metal reverie, look skywards towards this Firmament.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 25th, 2010


  1. Commented by: gordeth

    I’m loving what I’m hearing on his myspace page right now. Too bad it won’t be available sooner. This would be perfect for winter. I’ll buy it as soon as it comes out and hope for March to stay cold. :)

  2. Commented by: timshel

    Wow, you got the review up fast! I’m glad. This guy has some talent and deserves an audience. Excellent writing as usual, Jordan.

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    thanks guys –
    couldn’t find any links on the I Voidhanger site about how to order this once it’s ready. Keep me posted if you find anything.

  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Dense forests, snow-covered mountaintops, the baying of wolves, unrelenting winter. No other genre can convey nature’s majesty quite like black metal.

    How the hell am I going to get one of those 100 copies? I don’t know. But I’ll definitely try. This is so worth it.

  5. Commented by: gabahoul

    just wait til March for the re-release. besides the original cover on those first 100 is pretty garish.

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