Luminous Vault – Animate the Emptiness Review

Electronic elements and black metal is often met with disdain. Atonal EDM beats over blackened shenanigans make acts like Psyclon Nine and Mora Prokaza questionable, while the guitar-less synth overload of Golden Ashes and Wreche are often met with mixed reception. Perhaps more successfully, acts like Blut aus Nord and Dkharmakhaoz incorporate cold industrial flourishes to the raw guitar tone, creating an uncompromisingly obsidian sound. Electronic is divisive, but Luminous Vault does it right, creating twisted and otherworldly environs of flashing colors and cosmic spaciousness, backboned by the crushing density of colliding worlds.

Both harsh and ethereal in equal measure, Animate the Emptiness is a product of intricacy and abstractness without sacrificing its listenable qualities. Consisting of Artificial Brain/Aeviterne/Fawn Limbs bassist Samuel Smith and Oneirogen mastermind and guitarist Mario Diaz de León,1 both on vocal duty, New York’s Luminous Vault rides the razor’s edge of electronic ethereality, blasting mechanized beats, and crushing death/black, always bolstered by stellar songwriting. Animate the Emptiness is as intricate and abstract as its name suggests, wavering radiants of pulsing colors amid the empty abyss. It is far too easy for black/death songwriting to fall to the wayside if it’s masked by a slick sheen of electronic effects, but Luminous Vault accomplishes both with extreme precision.

A swirling mass of colors greets listeners as Animate the Emptiness opens. A synth tone that feels as jagged and gnarled as it is transcendental and beautiful gifts the album a decidedly psychedelic but undeniably beautiful atmosphere. Uniquely maddening, its menacing quality injects tracks with even more unique tones that never compromise the album at large: “Divine Transduction” and “Regeneration” are driven by Smith’s sprawling bass and synth tones in a ritualistic vibe, the pulsing beats of “Invoke Radiant Gleam” and “Incarnate Flame Arise” showcase a menacing writhing quality, while the patient ambiance of “Embryonic” feels like rest in a psychedelic 8-bit oasis before the staccato punishment of “Earth Daemon.” Trip-hop beats make appearances sporadically in 3TEETH-esque plodding passages throughout, but they never overstay their welcome. Luminous Vault has created a unique atmospheric marvel that balances occult darkness for spacy ethereal textures with its multi-pronged attack of synth, bass, and guitar tone, and to hold up a death/black album with atmosphere that feels like so few others is a triumph in itself. Recalling the subtle electronic flourishes and beats of Mors Principium Est’s The Unborn, Animate the Emptiness likewise uses its industrial tones to complement its preexisting black/death precision.

It would be easy for Luminous Vault to take the route of many a post-black or atmoblack act and copy-and-paste its synth atop subpar blastbeats and weak tremolo, but Animate the Emptiness’ black/death scathing brutality is never lost amid the swirling psychedelia of colors. In fact, in many ways, the rhythms, bass, and riffs are as intricately composed as its atmosphere. “Invoke Radiant Gleam” and “Incarnate Flame Arise” utilize odd rhythms and time signatures2 to create a distinctly patient and challenging palette, while “Earth Daemon” lets loose in unhinged staccato chugs alongside mechanized blastbeats that guide the album to its epic conclusion. The clearest kvlt homage “Ancient North,” bends the wavelength into a trip-hop-influenced foray into frozen and psychedelic tundra, with quavering tremolo and trembling melodic overlays atop punchy bass and Diaz de León’s commanding roar. It’s ultimately refreshing that Luminous Vault strikes such an ethereal and brutal balance, not only demonstrating their stunning musicianship but their impeccable and intricate songwriting.

Animate the Emptiness’ use of mechanized beats could come across as disingenuous or inorganic, and its rhythmic composition is challenging. The track “Divine Transduction” feels too long doing too little compared to surrounding tracks “Incarnate Flame Arise” and “Regeneration.” However, these setbacks are small potatoes compared to the vast and challenging success that Luminous Vault has concocted here. While Smith is as steadfast and powerful as ever, Diaz de Leon’s background in modern classical and experimental electronic music elevates Animate the Emptiness beyond metal itself. All its assets give this debut a living, breathing quality, pulsing heartbeats emanating from the pit. Atmosphere is concisely balanced with clear highlights whose intensity and intricacy speak for itself, a wash of strange and gorgeous colors, devastated by the crashing waves of oblivion.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 20th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Also currently Assistant Professor of Music and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology.
  2. The ridiculous latter is in 7/8, for instance.
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