Ok, be honest. If I told you today’s review was for a double album that clocked in at nearly 160 minutes and consisted of atmospheric blackened doom metal, what would you say? Well, if you’ve heard of Midnight Odyssey, my guess is that you would either say, “No shit, it’s out?” or “Fuck, not them again…” If you don’t know of the band you might say, “Oh wow, I gots to hear me some of that” or “fuck that dribble.” Honesty from Honest Abe Grier, my initial thought veered to the latterest of the latters. The idea of sitting through slow-building atmospheres, auditory representations of depressive landscapes stitched together with heavy synths, wannabe Quorthon-meets-David Gold clean vocals, and some tunnel shrieking seemed overwhelming and exhausting. Not to mention that I could drive halfway across the State during the runtime. But after releasing a very respectable one-hour demo in Firmament and having already tackled a two-hour epic with Funerals from the Astral Sphere (hehe, I said “sphere”), there are definitely things in their sound that work. But can they do it again with Shards of Silver Fade? Will I get lost in this new release like I did Funerals? Should there be a government-controlled cap on album length? Stop with the questions!
Because you have to put up with over two hours of music, I’ll just give you the short answers, sorta. Like many of the one-man bands reviewed this year, Midnight Odyssey’s Dis Pater clearly dumped every damn ounce of his soul into Funerals. Nearly four years after that, Pater crafts you another 2+ hour slab of sadness, darkness, and ambiance that comes close to topping its predecessor, but I still feel that Pater’s ultimate achievement remains Funerals (even though Funerals… has its share of filler and could have been a great 1-1.25 hour album). Regardless of length, Pater’s sound requires intense steeping and only after your bones are finally saturated with the doom and gloom, will you find your inner Dr. Downer.
Unfortunately, Shards of Silver Fade feels long and lacks some of the originality and the somber efficacy found throughout Funerals. Like that opus, this still has some semblance of a midway point in its eight tracks for a quick breather, but these two discs feel like, well… one really long album. Some of this lengthy feeling may also have to do with its eight tracks versus the sixteen found on its precursor. Having more actual song and directions changes throughout its length somehow made Funerals more digestable and memorable.
The first four tracks of this album (technically, the first disc of this two-discer) are actually quite good. “From a Frozen Wasteland,” “Hunter of the Celestial Sea,” “Son of Phoebus,” and “A Ghost in Gleaming Stars” build from a slow moving train of Viking-era Quorthon vox and a doomy pace before growing into a powerful momentum that’s killed off and resurrected in the form of Wintersun-esque keys in “Son of Phoebus.” This enveloping sadness is then transformed into beautiful, piano-driven depression in “A Ghost in Gleaming Stars” before the song slips off into oblivion.
The second half, on the other hand, opens with some crushing, melodic black metal (rasps included) that swaps aggression for peace in the intro to “Starlight Oblivion,” and then resumes its wispy, blackened atmospheres. After mingling with moody atmospheres, it strips down to simplistic acoustic-guitar work as mournful Woods of Ypres character builds it back up into the blackened, gloomy tower that most songs on the album strive to be. After some massive drum work, a final transition occurs in the title track as Pater’s morose Moonspell vocal approach finally puts this giant to sleep.
Shards of Silver Fade is a journey. There is no other way to describe it and it must be taken as a whole to absorb its mood and atmosphere. With that, it’s difficult at times to remember the beginning once you’ve reached the end. Even after listening to this release nearly a dozen times, the only way to pass its substance onto the reader is by following it as I write. Shards… has moments of beauty, moments of captivation, and moments of splendor; however, it’s so long it becomes a chore to come back to and combining the first half with “Starlight Oblivion” and maybe the title track would have been sufficient to make this a strong album. Thankfully, the DR9 rating gives it great listenability but this redundancy brings makes it less enjoyable than the regular variations and majesty found on Funerals from the Astral Sphere.