Unreqvited – Beautiful Ghosts Review

Hi gang, what did I miss? Having taken July as a mini sabbatical following the arrival of a second shark pup, it’s nice to find the site still standing (no thanks to the readers or most of the staff1) and to get back into the swing of things with a familiar face. Unreqvited and I go way back to my nameless_n00b days, when its third full-length album, Mosaic I: L’amour et l’ardeur, became the very first to get a 4.0 out of me. Its sequel, Mosaic II: La déteste et la détresse, failed to scale quite the same heights due to a very weak final third, which really held back an otherwise very good album. We somehow missed Unreqvited‘s next full-length installment, last year’s Empathica, altogether2 and so we here we find ourselves, exploring love and passion on sixth outing, Beautiful Ghosts. Can this most un-metal of topics get us back to the beauty of Mosaic I?

Unreqvited has never been a trve black metal band but the ambient shoegaze that characterizes much of its catalogue is punctuated by bursts of fury and harrowing, shrieked vocals. On each outing since 2018’s Stars Wept to the Sea, however, these elements have been progressively dialed back. By Beautiful Ghosts, sole member, 鬼, is firmly into the post-rock space, delivering progressive guitar lines, shimmering walls of synths, key arrangements and energetic drumming, with the blastbeats largely abandoned (“Autumn & Everley” being the exception). The last real vestige of the DSBM elements that formed a dark, moody core of earlier releases lies in the vocals. These remain an additional instrument at 鬼’s disposal, with wordless, bellowed screams and occasional choral cleans (see the title track), forming an rich seam of additional atmosphere and emotion in the swirling mix of ambience.

There is an unexpected levity or joyfulness to much of Unreqvited‘s sound on this record, which I found cheered me on each listen. Even when those DSBM vocals are in full flow, the guitar soars, the synths swell and the whole package conveys a sort of ethereal beauty – it is called Beautiful Ghosts, I guess – and a much more uplifting experience than Unreqvited‘s previous work. That’s not to say there aren’t darker moments (sections of “Autumn & Everley” and “Funeral Pyre,” as well as the pulsing static of “Reverie”), which, given the overall theme of love, perhaps represent moments of loss or turbulence in relationships but there is a positivity here that I did not see coming.

At a tight 42 minutes, Beautiful Ghosts flows well as an album, with the mood shifting and modulating between tracks so that, on the one hand, each track can stand on its own two feet, while the record also feels like a compelling whole that tells a story. This is something I was critical of with Mosaic II, which had at least a quarter of an hour of filler tacked on the end. There is no such issue here and even “Reverie,” which is over five minutes of pure electronic ambience and delicate vocal samples, feels like it belongs and is contributing something to the package as a whole. The gorgeous and intricate title track, and gossamer-delicate “All is Found,” are an excellent pairing to close the album, balancing power and fragility perfectly, in a way that the likes of Kauan have mastered. Unreqvited‘s production is slightly more expansive on Beautiful Ghosts than previous outings, actually reminding me of the sound and feel of the recent Midnight Odyssey.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Beautiful Ghosts, which is at least as good as Empathica and a definite step up in terms of overall quality and consistency compared to Mosaic II. Is it as good as Mosaic I and Stars Wept to the Sea, my two favorites in the discography? Not quite. Unreqvited has undoubtedly delivered a strong, well-written record about which I have nothing really negative to say but, with the exception of the title track, which I love, it is held back (albeit only slightly) by a lack of truly standout moments. A strong outing though and one I thoroughly recommend for fans of the style.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: unreqvited.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/unreqvited
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Thank Jørn for the ever-vigilant Sentynel.
  2. I should say, I am ignoring for these purposes the various EPs, splits and sole member 鬼’s output via his other guise, The Ember, The Ash.
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