Retrospective: Ceremonium – Into The Autumn Shade (1995)

ceremonium

Once in communion with purity
Now I am bounded in this foul existence

– ‘Incarnated Entity’

Into The Autumn Shade is a fine example of the doom/death hybrid of the 90s, where opposites existed side-by-side in near-equilibrium: melody and rageful death metal dissonance, time inverted and set right again, the dying of the light against a pale horizon, a strange paganism both wistful of visage and terrible in its wrath, struggling against the advent of the selfie sticks. Ceremonium create an album rich in texture and composition, free from bloat and capable of withstanding repeated scrutiny. Constant but intelligent gradations in tempo and theme make Into The Autumn Shade a brisk and compact experience, terms not usually associated with this style, but Ceremonium achieve the doom/death ideal without compromising on its doleful essence. This album is truly death and doom in equal measure, its rage channeled from a place of weariness rather than self-pity.

What is doom metal without this melodic movement and drama, anyway? When the space between notes is inflated and approaches breaking point, creating the illusion of time itself slowing down as it were, what else but melodic nuance remains to communicate the pathos natural to this most somber and monolithic of metal styles? Aggression, too, without which all too often doom becomes a neutered farce in the hands of pentatonically-restricted, control-knob savvy stoner hobos.

But doom is not the blues. Or tone-obsessed avant garde. Or emo, for that matter. Granted that specks of such are found misguidedly scattered across the sub genre, listener mileage varying in correspondence, but ultimately doom metal is a direct descendant of heavy metal, and so carries all the musical and philosophical qualities natural to the parent genre, albeit with an accentuated flair. What sets true doom apart from lesser pretenders is an acute recognition of this lineage, and the ambition and breadth of emotional canvas inherited from it. What ambition in such an orthodox reading, one asks? To that, I counter by asking where does it say that ambition has to aim only and always towards innovation? True doom aligns itself with traditional romantic ideals because it needs that full spectrum of color and feeling – qualities frequently sacrificed under the dubious mantle of innovation – to realize its vision and become an entity in its own right.

Faithful to such traditionalist interpretation, also practiced by then-contemporaries like Decomposed and the early efforts of the Peaceville trio, Into The Autumn Shade incorporates sweeping passages of austere beauty against a backdrop of lumbering power chords. Opposing voices are frequently at play with each other, the roles taken up diversely by guitar, choirs, and keyboards, creating a tapestry more intricate than originally apparent. Deep-throated growls try to follow melodic cadences, drums change tack between two extremes; that such dexterity is condensed into a 34-minute long album is an act of musical legerdemain worthy of admiration.

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