Sundrowned - Become Ethereal

07 Jul 2021 - Thorsten

Blackgaze | Fysisk Format | Release date: 18 Jun 2021

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How lofty and floating can post-metal or blackgaze be? If you ask Norway’s Sundrowned and their album Become Ethereal, very very much. Even when they are angry, the band never lets go of clouds to carry them through the massive songs!

When listening to the debut album by Jone Amundsen Piscopo (some people might know him from his band Chêne) one directly understands why he chose the title. The songs seem to float towards the audience as if lifted by some magical hands which push it towards us as if it was a small miniature boat on a magical sea of air.

And magic is a thing to connect with this record, as it is the first one in a series of records trying to discover the different sides of mankind and its (impossible) search for imperfection and real (classical) alchemy. Alchemy – the idea of either finding the key to ever-lasting life or of finding the process of turning lead into gold: what could be more magical than that? And this record even goes another step further in its “floaty-ness” for it looks at the idea of the human soul and how our deeds and memories affect it. Memories are of course often connected to the people we shared them with and who, without wanting to, also affected these memories themselves as indirectly us. So, the three main ideas of the record: Alchemy – the soul and how we shape it – the interconnected importance of memories for people and people for memories. Wow, that’s quite a lot.

However, some people will ask how Post-Black Metal or Blackgaze can float as it is still Black Metal. Very simple – by the incorporation of warm, underlying synths or guitar structures which are tuned so well, that we semi-acoustic pickings can slightly meanders and overlap with the next one creating a wonderful magical carpet for us to sit on. There are several such moments on Become Ethereal, for example the intro to the opening track ”Babel” where synths reach out to us and embrace us, somehow protecting the listener from the moment when the strong, muscular riffs kicks in after 50 seconds. The synths continue to swell below the riffs and growls and thus the listener never has the feeling of being alone. Or the first few seconds of ”La Tristesse Durera Toujours” when a few small tremolos are enough to keep one’s head over water. A wonderful, relaxing moment is the wavey interlude ”The Eternal” (remember, the soul is the only eternal thing humans might have): Mesmerizing and melancholic female vocals glide over some minuscule guitars and minute synth structures with no noticeable rhythm section at all. This track embodies another quality of Sundrowned, song sequencing. ”Ruins”, the track after ”The Eternal” kicks in with probably the strongest drum part of the whole record, very upbeat, very fast, very strong. When the lyrics sets in with ”I raise destruction…” it becomes even clearer what the track’s title implies – man ruins himself.

Supported by a highly skilled backing band and accompanied by a wonderful artwork which was done by Norwegian artist Bernhard Østebø while the band was performed the album in entirety along – thus one might say that Bernhard let the sound flow through his hands onto the canvas and delivered this beautiful thing which confirms the light-ness and clarity of the record and its background.

This record is another example why genres do not necessarily become boring – they can still be re-imagined and perfectly executed and thus remain relevant and magical. Just like alchemy. Or something ethereal and light. Floating.