Although the collective has been around for twenty years, Year of No Light seems the perfect band name for our times. Their long, slow, guitar-drenched vistas are painted in undulating shades of descending doom, punctuated by periods of intense energy. The last year has indeed seemed a year of no light, although shards have occasionally poked through the darkness.
Reading the title Consolamentum, one thinks of the words console and lament, the second closer to the LP’s mood. The term refers to an ancient Cathartic ritual of “eternal austereness and immersion in the Holy Spirit.” This is not the Holy Spirit of joy and lightness as much as it is one of self-denial and self-denigration. The theology meant to liberate instead became a new captor. In like fashion, the band writes that the album is meant to mirror “a bipolar and mournful ethos … music against modern times.” The music sounds like oppression, but who is the oppressor? The answer may lie within as well as without. In its sludgier sections, Consolamentum sounds like the world has felt over the past year; in its earned segments of increased activity, it sounds like the world has wanted to feel: like the conquerors of fear, anxiety and despair, rumbling through the forest in a flurry of hooves.
The track titles are worth exploring as well. “Objurgation” means “a severe rebuke,” which many would say the world needs right now, considering its botched response to pretty much everything. “Alethia” is the Greek word for “disclosure” or “truth,” a parry to propositions of “post-truth” and “alternate facts.” “Realgar” is a red mineral used in pigment and fireworks, representing conflict. Another title is translated “Forbidden to the Living, the Dead, and Dogs.” Not a cheerful batch of titles, but it hasn’t been a cheerful year. Sometimes dark music is received as empathy, granting permission to the pessimistic and dour. However, the sheer power of this album operates as a counter-balance: energy sapped, energy regained.
Philosophical considerations aside, the album simply rocks. The first large burst arrives three minutes and three seconds into the album (significant in numerology, and we suspect Year of No Light might be that deliberate). The shift is monolithic, but not fast; that will have to wait until “Alethia,” at nearly eight minutes the album’s shortest track. While we’re not proposing a radio edit, the catharsis of the eruption provides one of the most relatable moments in the collective’s discography. Similarly caffeinated moments arrive in “Interdit aux Vivants, aux Morts et aux Chiens” and the final four minutes of album closer “Came,” backed by the tolling of a bell.
To hear the entire discography, one may consider the larger purchase of the Mnemophobia box set, containing all of the band’s albums and EPs, plus a live set, slipmat, patch and pin. While they haven’t released a lot, they’ve released intentionally, with an ear to quality. This labor of love is a wonderful way to mark Year of No Light’s twentieth anniversary, and ironically may nudge some of the darkness away. (Richard Allen)