More melody than mayhem, France's Celestia is a band that catches your ear immediately because while they can definitely fly the black flag over their heads, they have an oddly upbeat overall tone to the music. Of course this is a paradox to the true nature of the genre of black metal, but it does open it up to a different sound and, although one shudders to speak the word aloud, a kind of growth that is usually nowhere to be found in the darkness.
Apparitia-Sumptuous Spectre is one in a long line of somewhat-obscure yet essential reissues the glorious people of Paragon Records have seen fit to bestow on us slovenly North Americans. Originally released in 2002, Apparitia-Sumptuous Spectre has now been remastered and repackaged (in what apparently is a very nice digipack, though this promo was sadly a mere photocopy) for the gluttonous black masses. The remastering of course provides a cleaner sound with a bit more bass in the mix - bass being something usually non-existent in the coarser, rougher original mixes of its ilk, but can almost be a bit distracting from the music. This is music that doesn't want to be pretty; it wants to be ugly as fuck and angry as hell. It should be a bitter pill to swallow. No need to gussy it up for the American swine. We'll like it just fine. Save the mixing money for more licensing purchases from the other Euro-labels we can't order from without a credit card and conversion chart. But when all else is said and done, labels like to sell records. That's how they stay in business and in this modern era of Pro-Tools and Sonic Foundry, production value goes a long way to convert the uninitiated audience.
The musicianship is something else that catches the ear hole, as these guys can play their asses off, though once again as with all their other releases, credit is due mainly to founding member Sir Noktu, who despite having other musicians listed as participating on this and other releases, I suspect is still the main man for instrumentation. The one-man-band thing seems to be a growing trend in European black metal but don't think for a second that the term "minimalist" can be applied to the likes of Celestia. This is well-rounded fully formed music that manages to do the seemingly impossible - it makes the music more accessible without ever sacrificing the vision, intent or final result.