Golden Ashes – In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night Review

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know how much I love atmosphere. Anything that can sweep me away into another realm through aural world-building tickles me pink like little can. From the difficult times in life to a slow day at work home, it feels nice to just unwind and be whisked away to somewhere else, a place in someone else’s imagination. Black metal is great at it, as its entire purpose is to conjure blasphemous and decrepit images of icy forests and iconoclastic rituals, but there are twists to your snow-crusted Norwegian fjords and the sounds of Hail Satans: Austere’s desolate Australian deserts, Blut Aus Nord’s hellish industrial landscapes, and Saor’s Scottish highlands, to name a few. While images painted are up for grabs, the general consensus is one of darkness, bleakness, and spiritual desolation. But what happens when the black metal is, ya know, not that?

Well known for projects like Gnaw Their Tongues, De Magia Veterum, and Cloak of Altering, sadistic blackened Dutch mastermind Maurice “Mories” de Jong offers his fourth album of 2020,1 Golden AshesIn the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night, the second LP of this particular project. This guy’s output and work ethic are astounding, spewing out multiple releases a year (as well as providing artwork and music production). However, his style remains largely predictable in noise-infused black metal with sadistic and disturbing themes. In contrast, Golden Ashes’ sound is starkly melodic in a blend of drones, keyboards, synths, and typical black metal tropes across its 36-minute runtime. The conjuring blends atmoblack acts like Coldworld and Arkhtinn, Tolkien-influenced folk influence from Summoning and Caladan Brood, and symphonic flavors of Vordven and Dimmu Borgir, all with a stunningly bright atmosphere. Ultimately, while it remains extremely inaccessible and hit-or-miss across the experience, it’s a good listen for those hankering for densely atmospheric black metal.

The best tracks on In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night are those that allow the atmosphere to flow organically and sprawl, embracing the epic and symphonic aesthetic of an ambient album. Tracks like “Let Death Stalk My Enemies, Let the Grave Swallow” and “Amongst the Mossy Tombs” recall Ildjarn’s ambient classic Hardangervidda. They utilize dense retro synths to carry the song’s progressions, backed by thick drones and Mories’ blackened shrieks, tremolos, and blast beats, resulting in a visceral sprawl not unlike the drone gods in Nadja or Earth. Tracks “From Grace to Utter Ruin” and “Black Mouths Murmur Black Prayers” are comparatively upbeat, relying on blastbeats and synths, while utilizing dynamics and crescendos to amplify blackened climaxes, enhanced by epic, nearly folky, Summoning-esque melodies.

Let me say it again: this album is dense. When Golden Ashes embraces this density and allows it to spread like buttah, it’s great. However, it can become overwhelmingly directionless when rushed, like opener “As Sacred Bodies Wither into Nothingness” and closer “Death Came with the Golden Dusk,” in which the synths bounce around to a nearly neoclassical degree,2 but end up doing very little over the course of their four-minute runtimes. Also, In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night and the Golden Ashes project at large has the potential to be extremely polarizing, as its nearly hyper-melodic tones stand at odds to the inherent bleakness of Mories’ other projects. While it is at least as inaccessible as his other projects, it’s a completely different sound than we’ve come to expect. Also, as is the nature of dense music, it takes multiple listens to breach the surface of this beast, which may prove off-putting to some listeners.

Ultimately, I feel very split about In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night, as its best tracks feel truly transcendent while its worst feel directionless. Like any good ambient album, it represents the warmth of its cover very well, setting its blackened elements into the background in favor of a densely melodic and downright sanguine sonic palette. It’s certainly unique, as its blend of density and melody are not often seen in metal’s vast universe, but its downfall is just that: a density that can lead to purposelessness. Ultimately, how you feel about Golden Ashes depends on your feelings on atmosphere: if you like your ambiance with a side of black metal, pick this one up.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Oaken Palace Records
Website: Bandcamp
Releases Worldwide: May 1st, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Alongside Dodenbezweerder, Gnaw Their Tongues, and Hagetisse.
  2. Like Fleshgod Apocalypse.
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