Cosmic Burial – …to the Past Review

Atmospheric black metal is the gift which keeps on giving. It will not stop giving, even if you beg it to. Since the mid-90s it has grown out of its blackened roots, adopting folksy strings, shimmering guitars and cosmic synths as it has developed and stratified. There are now literally thousands of bands doing very similar things, all attempting to stand out through the delicate fusion of black metal with emotive atmospheres. Germany’s Cosmic Burial is one such group – or rather, one such individual given that this is (not unusually) a one-man affair. …to the Past is V.V.’s second full-length release within this project, though he also heads up the equally unknown Nachtig and Valosta Varjoon. Is the past a good resource for what is now a historic genre?

…to the Past is so typical of its scene as to almost be obnoxious. It offers archetypal “atmoblack,” the sort of which floods Bandcamp. It does nothing you’ve not heard before by countless other bands – notably Lustre and Mesarthim. The music flows between long-winded, repetitive blackened passages and not-quite-ambient synth introductions and interludes. There are also infrequent passages which recall the emotive, post-black metal of Unreqvited, such as in the middle of “Alpha Bootis,” but these do little to convince me that anything here is novel. The one sheet emphasizes how atmospheric and ambient this release is, with limited amounts of black metal, but Cosmic Burial actually writes black metal with cosmic themes and simplistic synth overlays. For a record which is “only sparingly related to black metal,” there’s an awful lot of black metal here; I understand that it’s trying to elbow into a crowded market but call a spade a spade. The majority black metal here occasionally features solid riffs but for the most part just offers a skeleton to hang synths off.

In this way, …to the Past is competent. It executes the music it set out to execute. Riffs are stacked, synths are layered and atmosphere is generated, producing black metal with a vague post-rock feel. When the record concludes I suppose I feel a little calmer, though this goes no further. But it pales in comparison to its forebears; black metal’s innovators command my attention with razor-sharp leads and sheer aggression, while dungeon synth in the 90s forged similar synths into thoughtful, detailed compositions. There is little here which could be described as razor-sharp or thoughtful. Music like this strives for emotion and profundity, and had it been released 25 years earlier, …to the Past might have left a mark. But with hundreds of previous releases doing the same thing more successfully, I’m left wondering why I should invest more time into it. Its riffs are not riffy enough, its emotions not emotive enough. Cosmic Burial is not bad, but it is derivative and bland.

The fact that …to the Past operates without vocals does little to assuage the feeling that it lacks any distinctive characteristics. It falls on to the guitars to actually engage their listeners on a moment-to-moment basis, but this ultimately doesn’t work as there’s not enough quality and variety to demand their attention. I understand that the purpose is to be dreamy, ethereal and cosmic, rather than break-neck and thrilling, but bands like Unreqvited achieve this while also having more interesting and diverse song-writing. This is compounded by the protracted song-lengths. 4 tracks over 45 minutes doesn’t scream “excitement” and while 45 minutes is an appropriate album length for many metal bands, here it feels over-long. In particular, much of the finale called “Alpha Canis Majoris” feels especially unnecessary given that it does nothing that isn’t done elsewhere, and does it over the longest track length.

It says a lot that while attempting to take notes I began absent-mindedly clipping my nails. And when I realized what I was doing, I was unable to rewind to the precise point where I’d lost interest because much sounds the same. And this happened on several occasions. Cosmic Burial is comparable to those people that can talk interminably but have nothing substantial to say. You switch your brain off and say “yeah” occasionally but you’re not really listening. There’s a lot of noise here but it doesn’t say anything fresh or innovative. Given its competition is able to generate emotive atmospheres, while also featuring much more engaging music, I struggle to find a reason to recommend …to the Past.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Purity Through Fire
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2021

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