CELESTIAL SEASON (NDL) – Mysterium I, 2022 (ENG)


Versión en español

After their magnificent 2020 album, the veteran Dutch band CELESTIAL SEASON returns with new work, Mysterium I, a concept album that, as its name suggests, will be the first of a trilogy, whose second and third chapters will be released throughout this year and the next. The album continues with a style similar to his contained and closest work in time: The Secret Teachings, as well as connecting stylistically with their first two works: Forever Scarlet Passion and Solar Lovers, two classic albums within death-doom, with certain similarities to his contemporaries MY DYING BRIDE due to the exquisite use of violin and cello in most of his recordings, although with a marked own style that quite differentiates them from the British.

Although the group had a significant hiatus from their 2000 album, Lunchbox Dialogues, to their most recent 2020 album, the truth is that the band reformed for a series of live performances around the year 2010 when they re-recorded the song “Decamerone” from their second album. For such an event they had a different line-up than the current one, incorporating the vocalist of the extinct ORPHANAGE, George Oosthoek, and also counting on the drummer of ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN‘s band, Rob Snijders. After several line-up changes, most of the original members returned, who make up the current lineup: vocalist Stefan Ruiters, drummer Jason Köhnen, guitarists Pim van Zanen, and Olly Smit, bassist Lucas van Slegtenhorst, as well as violinist Jiska Ter Bals, being the most recent addition the cellist Elianne Anemaat.

The album starts with the initial “Black Water Mirrors”; the intro begins with an excerpt from the 1995 film Institute Benjamenta, from which several scenes have also been taken for the official video clip. An excellent track, which brings back memories of both the “doom era” of the early 90s and its memorable comeback a couple of years ago, as does the somewhat more rhythmic “The Golden Light of Late Day” that follows, proving that the band is in top form despite the years of inactivity and the drastic change in style since their 1997 album Orange and their two subsequent more stoner-oriented albums. The ubiquitous violins and cellos surround the melancholic guitar melodies, with a powerful rhythmic base of bass and drums and a full Stefan Ruiters, displaying some gutturals that have nothing to envy to those of his beginnings in the early 90s.

The next track, “Sundown Transcends Us”, sounds energetic and considerably faster in tempo, with some very old-school riffs and lead guitars; the string section blends in perfectly with the rest of the instruments, bringing back a sound that seemed lost in time, but that never sounds outdated or obsolete. Cut number 4, “This Glorious Summer”, immerses us in a languid melody, drastically slowing down compared to the previous one. Honoring its name, this seems to me to be one of the most glorious songs on the entire album, something very meritorious as it is one of the few in which the violin and cello are dispensed with; the beautiful solo guitars take care of it, reminding us of some PARADISE LOST from their acclaimed Gothic, but always with the personal and distinctive touch that CELESTIAL SEASON gives to their compositions.

With the fifth track, “Endgame”, they speed up once again, incorporating faster solo guitars that could remind us of some first-time DARK TRANQUILLITY, to then surprise us with the reprise technique, that is, repeating a riff or cut from another. the theme, in this case, the one that opens the album, “Black Water Mirrors”; as if to remind us that this is a concept album and that all the songs are connected in ways that are as subtle as elegant. The successive “All That is Known” begins with some very dark and very atmospheric guitars, possibly the most shocking and emotional theme of this work, where slowness is once again the predominant note; Stefan Ruiter‘s voice is whispery and visceral, and the violin and cello sections sound sublime and extremely soulful. Undoubtedly one of the best songs on the album and possibly of his entire career.

The album closes with the homonymous song “Mysterium”, a song that works as a farewell, beginning with a sad composition where once again they masterfully demonstrate how to mix melancholy solo guitars with beautiful violin passages; towards the end, the track veers to a more menacing and somber tone, with interludes of violin and cello alternating with agonizing and ominous riffs, spiced up with Stefan Ruiter’s powerful guttural voice, to culminate on an album that is just the beginning of a very promising trilogy, as much or more than his magnificent 2020 work The Secret Teachings, with which he also shares a conceptual thread.

In the trilogy that began with Mysterium I, we delve into the story narrated in The Secret(…): the occult, secret societies and their teachings through time and civilizations, the eternal struggle between good, evil, and balance of both, all located in a mystical and legendary land called Mysterium itself. All this information has been provided by the band through interviews, social networks, streaming channels, etc. since the lyrical section remains hidden and under a halo of secrecy, so each listener can draw their own conclusions and interpretations. Something similar happens with the artwork, very enigmatic and striking, showing a kind of mythological creature which has been made by the group’s own drummer.

Luckily we won’t have to wait too long to listen to the next releases, since as we have mentioned, the band intends to release them in the following months. Let’s hope they are as outstanding as this Mysterium I.