Album: The Language of Limbs
Genre: Post-Metal, Post-Black Metal
Country: South Africa
Release Date: 15th of November, 2019
Released via Isolation Records
Cover Artwork © Isolation Records, 2019
When speaking of Post-Black Metal, the 2010s were honorably heralded in the wake of Alcest‘s sophomore release Écailles de Lune. A few years before, Alcest‘s debut release introduced the mixture of Blackgaze to a wider audience, broadening the branches of the genre term itself. Only three years later, Deafheaven‘s gamechanging sophomore release Sunbather was released and from that point on it seemed as if Post-Black Metal was set on the map for more than just the dedicated listener. Apart from these releases, though, lots of things happened in between during these ten years. The mixtures of Black Metal, Post-Metal and other genres were experimentally extended thus introducing a large amount of sonically innovative spheres. Many of these still differed from the releases mentioned above that gained the major mainstream attention. Somewhere in between those acts we can find South African two-member outfit Constellatia, who released their debut album Language of Limbs this year.
Constellatia consists of two members – Gideon Lamprecht on guitar and keys and Keenan Oakes on bass and vocals – the lineup is supplemented, though, by Adam Hill on the guitar as live support and Lawrence Jaeger on the drums. Apart from drums and vocals, which were engineered by Daniel Thackwray, the rest of the music was recorded, mixed and mastered by Gideon Lamprecht himself. This is an aspect I especially like about musicians. It often gets overshadowed by many other factors how utterly important it is to emphasize if musicians ceased the initiative in recording and producing their music themselves.
The idea of getting together as Constellatia was implemented in September 2018, which means that not a lot of time went by until the first full-length release Language of Limbs saw daylight. According to Lamprecht and Oakes, this release is concerned with hardship the contributing musicians endured in the past.
On the first track “All Nights Belong to You,” Constellatia instantly jump into a fast setting that is primarily lead by the fast drums consistently playing blast beats. Although this sounds as if the album kicks off in a frenzy, the entire frame coming from guitars, piano and lyrics in the beginning of this track soften the feeling of the fast drums. In this case, “soften” is not to be understood negatively, I absolutely favor the combination of the beautiful soundscape combined with pacing drums combined so neatly that I needed several runs to eventually understand how fast those drums actually were going. The forefront of this track comes from the beautiful guitars that add an absolute warmth to what is going on. Oakes opens up the track with hoarse, melodic vocals, which is also why the Post-Metal atmosphere is more present durnig the first two minutes. Afterwards, however, Oakes switches into harsh and biting Black Metal vocals. This is, in my opinion, also the point where this track starts to feel fully Post-Black Metal.
It is not very difficult to find negative aspects someone did not like and thus deduce reasons why a record was not in favor of someone. It becomes more difficult, though, to discuss aspects that could have gone wrong but were realized to such a positive extent that the final product is – especially because of these reasons – absolutely amazing. This is also what is necesary when talking about Language of Limbs. Although Constellatia denote this album to be Post-Metal with Black Metal influences, I will more specifically go into detail about Post-Black Metal aspects, because they are heavily prominent from front to back. Especially when regarding the Black Metal framework, switching from harsh and gritty vocals into smooth sections with warm and peaceful vocals can often ruin the entire experience of an album. On “All Nights Belong to You,” the sudden halt and transcendence into Alison Rachel’s (Honeymoan) vocals feels absolutely uplifting and is perfectly done – both regarding the production and the vocals. The intensity of this track that is progressively built up until this point finds an absolute climax when Rachel begins singing.
The warmth that is present on the entire record pleasantly embraces these vocals. Apart from the vocals, the atmosphere that comes from the warmth of the instrumentation as well – in contrast with the drums and the vocals most frequently – constructs an overall framework especially some more famous records before were not able to coherently convey. When I heard this first track, Deafheaven‘s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love came to my mind, because this record also tried to detach Black Metal elements and mix them up with warmer and more uplifting Post-Metal and Gazey instrumentation. Constellatia, though, are able to succeed more convincingly in coming up with a track in which everything feels to be at its place, which is why Language of Limbs and especially this first track feels to have done what Deafheaven only tried to showcase on their release.
Language of Limbs most prominently shines because of the way in which it makes use of Black Metal elements and imaginatively modifies them so as to fit in what they want their music to sound like. Especially Lamprecht‘s guitar sounds make use of epic Black Metal chord tones and melody progressions, whereas the dark ambience that we generally think of when talking about Black Metal is altered and the guitars sound just perfect to fit into the entire track. The drums, though, often oscillate between Post-Metal and Black Metal patterns thus maintaining a certain general feeling, whereas the playful guitars are hugely in contrast with the drumming – sounding absolutely amazing. There is a certain Black Metal feel to the entire album, although at some points vocals switch between hoarse and gritty or the instrumentation slows down – turns into acoustic sound – and eventually speeds up again. Any time the instrumentation slows down, Oakes‘ fierce vocals pierce through the pleasant melodies (“In Acclamation”) and whenever the vocals “soften” down, the instrumentation goes into full blast (“Empyrean”).
This debut full-length release by Constellatia absolutely convinced me from front to back. I can still remember having listened to this record while driving to work for the first time – having been blown away by the mere sound when not even having listened into the details of the release. When having paid more attention during further listenings, I only fell in love with this album more than before. It is pretty nice to come to the end of an entire decade and just before it finishes, a brilliant release rounds off those ten years.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
9 / 10
As usual, we added the favorite track(s) to our Transcended Review Playlist.