Does the world need another bedroom black metal “band”? Turns out, “need” or not, we’ve certainly had far worse than ASCALAPHA foisted upon us.

‘Dark Moon’ slowly begins her westward arc, tasteful and tunefully caressing the sable half-dome of the night, belying the grim subject matter, the resignation to the end. Lyrically, we find Monstro – and thus, ASCALAPHA – to be sparse, more a collection of handfuls of water (tears?) from life’s cold stream than traditional rhyme, which then affects the musical form; no “verse-chorus-verse” here. After a ‘Ceaseless Drought’, we stride the ‘Nameless Path’, filled more of determination than of confidence, an overwhelming desire for termination.

Then why not? Quite frankly, this is the crux and the Grand High Ideal of this sort of metal (and a good bit of other sorts as well, let’s be honest). This obsession with an end that the singer, writer, painter – aye, darkly bent artist of any sort – cultivates or finds growing wild within, carves out of themselves from time to time, and places on display, seemingly aches for but is unable or unwilling to commit themselves to enough to take That Last Step of the journey on their own. So, the artist stays alive, continually in this state of desire unattained, of self-doubt when it comes to their own earnestness. And the art continues to flow. But I digress.

The title track musically sounds curiously vibrant; dare I say – thriving? Here’s where the mentions in the PR material of pre-ALCEST Neige are given credence, throat-rending intonations and treble-heavy guitars that remain pleasing to the ear despite the abrasion. The first interlude, ‘Our Lives Intertwined’ lays us down on a bed of velvet black nostalgia, an ache for past times imagined (often incorrectly) as better, here called ‘Noche sombria’, another trope of the style, but here crafted with a sense of the true, a pouring of honest emotion.

After the positively rapturous ‘Una vida que no es mia’ (those synths!), which recalls early DEPECHE MODE and THE CURE more legitimately than most who seek to, penultimate track ‘Remorse’ leaves us with the lyric “A life I always wanted / Is lost forever”. And you know, I think that’s where ASCALAPHA and Somber Vampyric Night shine, albeit bleakly; not overdone, pleasingly bereft of pretense and, therefore, meaningful to those who listen and understand.
Review By: Lord Randall

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