Back in 2014, I reviewed Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar, a promising EP by American black metal duo Gnosis of the Witch. Even with the amount of preciousssssssing going on vocally by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Niðafjöll, the energy and ferocity piqued my interest. Four years later, Gnosis is Gno-more, and now Niðafjöll has teamed up with Grá drummer Dimman in a headier, more atmospheric project known simply as Veiled. Does Celestial Black Orbs possess what it takes to propel themselves to the top of the atmospheric black metal food chain, or are you best throwing this into a raging volcano?
If the final two numerical title tracks are any indication, Veiled possess more promise than Gnosis ever hinted at. Gone are the Absu-isms, replaced by an almost Drudkh-like atmosphere, complete with repetitious tremolo sections that build and build before dropping off into an atmospheric passage in “Black Celestial Orbs I”‘s mid-section. The closing “Black Celestial Orbs II” is nothing but strummed guitar, ambient soundscapes with rushing water and a wolf howling, and Niðafjöll reciting a short poem. While that may sound trite on paper, it’s anything but, effectively closing the album out on a somber, reflective note, and one I would love to see the band explore further in the future.
And what of the other four tracks? While they’re not at the lofty, atmospheric level of the final one-two punch that closes Black Celestial Orbs out, they’re not bad. “Enshrouded” opens up with a tremolo-infused build-up before quietly entering a more mellow, somber melody that stretches for a little bit too long. In fact, you can lay that claim on the other three tracks as well. Opener “Luminous” hangs on to each riff too long, overstaying things somewhat. Normally, that would be the death knell for any band’s output, but thankfully the atmosphere and the band’s knack for putting you into an almost trance-like state makes this work somehow.
As for the production, this is stock black metal. The guitars sound icy, the vocals cavernous, the bass barely existent. Black metal has always relied on the songwriting to carry it forth, and Black Celestial Orbs, even this early in the band’s existence, reveals a great deal of promise. If they can scale back the repetition just a hair, we’ll have a colossal atmospheric beast to look out for, and I haven’t said that about a black metal debut in a long time.
While I was saddened to hear that Gnosis of the Witch gave up the ghost, it birthed a superior offspring in Veiled. While the mileage will vary for some, I came away from Black Celestial Orbs impressed and intrigued as to what will be I’m store from this duo. I’m hoping they will stick around for a little while, plant some roots, and allow us to witness just what weird branches will grow from this promising debut. Keep an eye out for these guys.