Iter Ad Lucem

When I checked out Urna’s 2006 release Sepulcrum, I was struck at how similar it sounded to Arcana Coelestia’s Ubi Secreta Colunt. Both featured a fusion of funeral doom and black ambient, of cosmic light bleeding through waves of crushing darkness. A quick trip to the Metal Archives cleared up my hunch – they’re both the ambient/black/funeral doom projects of Italian electronic/drone mastermind MZ.

Now, if you’ve already read my review of the new Arcana Coelestia, Le Mirage de Idéal, you’ll know that I found that album disappointing because it lost the focus, cohesion and songcraft that made Ubi Secreta Colunt such a haunting, mesmerizing listen. Funeral doom is ponderous and protean in nature, but it was that album’s structure that made it so easily absorbed. So perhaps this just boils down to a question of expectations: I expected Arcana Coelestia to remain the more composed, linear and listenable of MZ’s projects (haven’t heard Locus Mortis, so I can’t comment), whereas I expected Urna to be its looser, more unstructured counterpart. (Whether or not these expectations are fair or not is up for debate, but I can’t find any clearer way to distinguish between the two).

With that in mind, Iter Ad Lucem is, to me, the more successful of the two new releases, as it achieves exactly what it set out to do: engulf the listener in a colossal, kaleidoscopic vortex of sound. It’s still as spacey and atmospheric as Arcana, but it accomplishes this without that project’s signature astral warble. Rapturous guitar solos swoop and dive through the murk, as they do on Le Mirage, but the guitar takes on other, more recognizably ‘metal’ voices as well. “Sefira Malkuth” opens with choppy fragmented riffage, and the two-part title track uses a chiming, dissonant refrain that conjures the more subdued and mysterious side of mid 90s death metal. And throughout it all, the vocals are harsher, more blackened and overall more unsettling. They also forgo the clean, soaring croons and female operatics that add a touch of recognizable humanity to the Arcana experience, making this the bleaker of the two projects.

All that said, this is strictly background music for me – I’m not enough of a funeral doom fan to really obsess over this stuff, and I no longer use ambient, atmospheric music as a night’s entertainment the way I used to in my college days. Still, this is a high-quality, well-produced slab of sonic phantasmagoria, and definitely worth the journey if you’re into the more obscure and mystical side of black, drone and doom.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
January 21st, 2010


  1. Commented by: gordeth

    I plan on picking this up very soon. The samples I heard from it sound like a huge improvement over their debut, which definitely was nothing more than background music. It sounds like this album has more structure. I hope this project continues with this approach. It’s nice to finally have a variation on the wall-of-sound ambient doom style that Esoteric invented years ago.

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