The two most overused words in the Black Metal lexicon: “cold” and “atmospheric”, but it is these two words that rather fittingly describe Vaiya‘s Remnant Light (Nordvis/Bindrune), a 2017 re-release of a three-year-old album self-produced by Vaiya mastermind Rob Allen. And if you didn’t know that Vaiya is a one-man project from the decidedly un-cold and un-atmospheric Melbourne, Australia, you would be forgiven for thinking this album was born in some Scandinavian forest.
While the name Vaiya may represent a native Australian tribe totem, its inspiration more likely comes from that sacred scribe of Black Metal names, J.R.R. Tolkien. In Tolkien lore, Vaiya is a cold, dark sea that flows completely around the world, and in fact, is said to be the sea upon which the world floats. Fitting, for if you turn out the lights and close your eyes, Remnant Light will often make you feel as if you’re adrift at sea.
The album consists of three tracks clocking in at precisely thirteen minutes each: ‘Confrontation’, ‘Banishment’ and ‘Transformation’. The core elements walk that fine line between the first and second wave of Black Metal, but the overall feel of the album leans closer to the second; it’s less evil, more melodic, less extreme, more depressing. Think early – like, For All Tid (No Colours ) early – Dimmu Borgir, but without the keyboards. Or, maybe, Morker, but with the production values (or devalues, as it were) of Emperor‘s In the Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight).
Both sonically and musically, each of the tracks is a study in the transformation between light and darkness. ‘Confrontation’ shifts around at six-and-a-half-minutes from rather expected Blackened Metal fare into a crisp and beautiful acoustic guitar segue featuring melodies and harmonies that can even be described as – gasp – sweet. Lest you start thinking thoughts that veer a bit too close to positive, Allen’s guttural, heavily echoing rasps return to remind you this is not an Anathema album. And for the last-minute of the track, there is certainly no mistaking, as ‘Confrontation’ suddenly blasts back into familiar territory and fades out into slashing rain.
‘Banishment’ treads similar ground, sinking into an exceedingly dark middle section as the listener is banished to wander, perhaps, far beneath Tolkien’s Lonely Mountain. And ‘Transformation’ brings it all back around, the final three minutes fading from My Dying Bride-isms into more acoustic shades of Anathema, and then closing out into the sounds of nature. But now the rain has ceased, leaving just night creatures singing their tunes. Only now do the listeners feel as if they’ve traveled beyond those frozen Scandinavian forests into the Australian desert, lost under a massive starry sky.
But even deserts are cold at night.