05 Jan 2022 - Thorsten
Psychedelic Black Metal | Gilead Media | Release date: 17 Dec 2021 | Favorite song: Before The Glinting Spell Unvests
Black Metal seems to have become THE most fertile ground for one-man-projects over the last couple of decades and of the reasons for that might be the possibility of hiding yourself and your ideas behind a curtain of lo-fi mush then called “raw black metal” in order to conceal any songwriting flaws or inabilities. Welcome to the complete opposite – Ustalost! Their newest record might be one of the most unique things in black metal that you will hear all year!
Ustalost is the side project of Will Skarstad, whom many will and more should know from his work with Yellow Eyes, one of the best modern American black metal bands of our time. He formed Ustalost several years ago and in 2016 he released the first Ustalost-record The Spoor Of Vipers and when considering his work in Yellow Eyes (and in Sanguine Eagle, for that matter) it becomes apparent why he cannot simple conjure such masterpieces out of thin air.
If Anna von Hausswolff did black metal and still kept the organ as a major instrument, the outcome might sound similar to Ustalost, for there is certainly a kind of soulful church-like quality to the songs without them turning to ritualistic shrouds. Will creates organ or synth sounds with a kind of appeal balancing out 60s psychedelia and ecclesiastical pomp. His songs are elaborate but never overly long – the longest track ticks in at 9:08 minutes, the shortest at 5:28. One will hear strings, one will hear synths, sometimes chant-like vocals (seemingly by a choir, but maybe overdubbed) and one thing that many people will not care for at first, are the brilliant basslines on songs like the title track.
Easily, everyone will recognize how much time has been invested in making each song just, well, perfect. Let’s have a closer look at one of the songs and why not choose the opener ”Enough Glass Will Cast A Shadow”? The first thing you hear from Ustalost’s second record is a synth-passage that is a little bit like an out-of-tune flute that immediately starts, no slowly creeping in on the listener, no, it’s right there. Not with a hit, but with a greeting, ”come in, old friend”, as if one came of the snow-capped winterland into the old tavern at the end of the forest. Then all of a sudden the wind outside gets even stronger and some harsh guitar and drum parts try to sneak in over the synth-passage. The drums gallop, the guitar shifts very often trying to outrun the drums but this orangey synths are always there somewhere underneath the whirling winds but now they are trying to soothe out the noise. The vocals are shrieking and mighty, but never biting and then – at around 3:40 the noise drowns out, the drums slow down, the guitar take a breath and go for it once more but all in all the song calms down a bit – enough has been enough. Then the synths flare up again, this time heralding their own championship getting somewhat close to a prog-synth-passage from the early 80s. By and by they are winning the battle with grandeur and elegance only to let go and slowly ascend from the end of this track into the lead of the second track ”Stinging Stone”. And if you are convinced by the description of this track, let me assure you – there are five more amazing songs to follow after this one, with my personal favorite being the title track or the final track ”Bright Window Closing”, or… you get it.
All killers, no second of fillers on this record. Black metal of 2022 be good, be brave, be mature and be your best, or you will not be able to beat the last black metal masterpiece from 2021 – Ustalost’s second opus magnum. A must for every fan of modern black metal with a knack for atmosphere and psychedelia, an open ear for some proggy arrangements and a really perfect production!