Both Selvans and Downfall of Nur are prime examples of the quality of underground black metal. Both bands do not register their sound with the bitter traditional approach of the genre, and rather temper with mellower tendencies. Selvans depicted thoroughly their understanding of the folkish side of the genre in their excellent Lupercalia album, while Downfall of Nur attempts in Umbras de Barbara, showcase their take on the atmospheric subdivision of black metal, adding melody and harshness in equal parts.
What is important to understand from all this is the quality that these two acts bring to the table, and how perfect a fit this collaboration is. And I write collaboration since this is more than a split. The two acts are not segregating themselves in this case, and are jointly active in both writing and performing all the tracks.
As is the case with both atmospheric and folk sides of black metal, setting up a narrative is essential for a complete album. The record rises with the sun, in “Sol,” hailing creation in all its glory and sets off in a journey that will only end in the night of “Luna,” a place of darkness and oblivion. The two tracks act as mirrors, both able to bring a cinematic quality, but while “Sol” is closer to the folk tone, bringing images of endless landscapes and ancient tales, “Luna” travels in more spacey themes, with an almost sci-fi element.
The Selvan's led track, “Pater Surgens” comes with a sense of space and ambiance, adding hostility as time passes to its melancholic outlook. The furious riffs roar and the wolf-like shrieks dominate the soundscapes, with the switches in pace displaying the different aspects of black metal that they are able to awaken, from the furious renditions to the pessimistic and melancholic overlaps. On the other hand “Mater Universi,” the Downfall of Nur led track displays a similarly impressive fluency in its changes, forcing together its bleak perspective with an upbeat progression, and going as far as the areas of psychedelia, where notes act as hallucinogen, mesmerizingly unfolding.
What both bands display, and is one of the strongest aspects of this work is the excellent instrumentation. The elements of the work are vast, but they also do not overwhelm the listener. Acoustic guitars make an appearance, taming the harsh black metal quality, while flutes come to the front, incorporated brilliantly even within the full-blown aggressive moments. The record even goes as far as to include neo-classical leanings, placed alongside folk tendencies, a combination that is not common. It all speaks to these two acts' great appreciation for the style of music they are representing, their potential and meticulous work in creating a quality album.
8.4 / 10
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