South African post-Black outfit Constellatia arrived just two short years ago, and already last year’s debut album The Language of Limbs (Season of Mist) has earned a power-label reissue. A blast of atmospheric harshness and aching melody with a touch of doomed romance, its four tracks are a paean to the outer edges of Emotion.
Recorded when the band was a duo – it’s now a quartet – the first thing that strikes home is the juxtaposition of the raw, ‘tin-pot’ blastbeats provided by now-permanent drummer Lawrence Jaeger, and Gideon Lamprecht‘s broken, Gothic-flavoured lead chimes which create a real sense of melancholy. Keenan Oakes‘ vocal ranges from a despairing, croaky roar to full-on screaming scour, while Lamprecht’s lead guitar continues to pique the emotions alongside some staggering mixed-tempo stickwork: the midriff, meanwhile, switches to a delicate Alcest-like Blackgaze, with female harmonies haunting the soul. It’s a stirring blend of fire and tuneful subtlety which segues with wounded mortality into ‘In Acclamation’: that doleful Goth-Folk feels initially blending with Oakes’ scream before gradually increasing the pace and the impact of riffs from the frozen wastes of the tundra. Again the midsection is a dreamscape of melody and Oakes’ diseased larynx, giving the impression of Gaahl delivering a ballad for broken souls: the ascension from which is a blend of glorious chimes, stabbing riffs and stellar explosions that leave the heart a broken mess on the floor.
Oakes’ earthshaking bass notes introduce the equally-moving ‘Empyrean’, the maudlin pace disguising the blastbeats hidden beneath the surface but which break the water at judicious intervals. Here is the true skill of Constellatia, in the creation and fluidity of the compositions: the tragic music sharing space with mid-paced Metal and angry, agonised Blackness, epitomising the terrible beauty made famous by WB Yeats. Closer ‘The Garden’ initially possesses a sleepy, 80s Pop feel, those female tones easing over sparing Prefab Sprout-esque jangles and cosmic atmospheres. Jaeger’s creeping yet powerful involvement intimates the forthcoming swell but though it does arrive, it is fluctuating and poignant: Oakes’ roars full of pain and steeped in hopelessness; more mixed-tempo drums underpinning some truly affecting yet understated lead riff and solo work.
There is something quite unique afoot here. This kind of wrought Black metal has existed before certainly, but not with the full depth, the tangibility of anger and devastation displayed here. South Africa isn’t renowned for its nefarious music but with The Language of Limbs, Constellatia might be about to change that in a big way.
8 / 10