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Angellore : La Litanie Des Cendres

Angellore's sophomore shows exactly how Gothic/Romantic music should be done.

News has been relatively sparse since French Gothic Doomsters Angellore gave us their impressive debut album 'Errances', back in 2012/13. Well over a year, in fact, since we heard that the sophomore had been recorded and the "mixing process was almost over". Still, this is Doom, and we're rarely in a hurry - though I confess to a little impatience over finding out what the follow-up to what is still one of my favourite releases of this decade would sound like. Happily, that wait is now over, with 'La Litanie Des Cendres' (litany of ashes) poised for release at the end of August, and my sense of anticipation - this time for seeing my CD preorder arrive - remains undimmed.

The first thing you may notice about this sophomore is the brief tracklist, despite clocking in at almost quarter of an hour longer than 'Errances'. Gone are the short interlude pieces of the pre-album works; largely gone, too, are the mid-length tracks of the debut. With the (admittedly sizeable) exception of the 2011 demo track 'Moonflower', also gone is the reworking of older material. And, finally, with the rough, almost sketchy, dynamics of the cover painting, gone is the photo-precise conventionality of the artwork, in favour of a more elemental and evocative imagery. 'La Litanie...', one might imagine from these clues, should be the sound of a band really unfurling their wings with complete confidence.

That's an impression which is backed up by the full-tilt Dark The Suns-style riff introducing the album with a surprisingly vigorous flourish of driving Gothic Metal. It isn't long, however, before more familiar motifs begin to surface: the pace slowing as gruff vocals give way to high, clean and pure tones, and a resurgence of the delicate interplay between guitar and keyboards, hovering unashamedly on the brink of heartrending melancholy. The exquisite delicacy of that mix of voices and primary instruments continues exactly where 'Errances' left off: as the most obvious and greatest strength in the band's creation of emotion-laden atmosphere. The biggest difference here is that the longer tracks allow the themes which they convey a larger stage to fill, and - consequently - to develop with a little more of either subtlety or expansiveness, depending on the mood - though, just for a little variety, the 6-odd minutes of 'Inertia' prove that Angellore can and do still work quite comfortably within a shorter, tighter framework. Oh, and having pulled a bit of a flanker with the debut - where many people mistook guitarist Rosarius exercising the upper end of his phenomenal vocal range for an uncredited female vocalist - this time around they include genuine female vocals, courtesy of very much credited singer Lucia.

Slow-paced grandeur, in general, is the order of the day, whether led by clean and lamenting guitar or keyboards, or in the occasional skeletally tragic piano interjections, and the extended choral passages. There are exceptions, of course, such as the darkly ecclesiastical Saviour Machine feel to the centrepiece of 'Moonflower', and its subsequent rush towards a fast, blackened crescendo. It's also nice to hear Cathy Arquez' violin making a welcome reappearance, though in a more sedate MDB-Gothic context than the sometime-folksier feel of before. And while we're on the subject of namedropping, there are even moments which invoke the heyday of Prog-rock: more than once, I found myself thinking of Camel's 'The Snow Goose', Renaissance's 'Ashes Are Burning', and touches of Barclay James Harvest. Not always directly, perhaps, but more something in the timbre of the keyboards and bass, Lucia's Annie Haslam-like tones, and the particular lilting rhythms of the pieces. Amongst all of which, it's quite easy to lose track of Ronnie's unobtrusively effective, and surprisingly varied, drumming, but once again, it forms a solid cornerstone of the music, with plenty of detail to follow if concentrating on the percussion lines.

What Angellore have proved here is that they can indeed fill a bigger canvas. They clearly haven't lost their love of the Gothic/Doom classics, nor discarded those primary influences, but have evolved their sound to a wider stage. Even more than on 'Errances', they are their own band, and the interaction between founders Walran and Rosarius remains as strong and distinctive an identity as any you could care to mention. If you were to point to any loss, it might be that this more mature offering lacks some of the more roughly dynamic contrasts of the last album - you won't find anything as blatant as the dark-to-light abruptness of 'I Am The Agony' here. Nonetheless, 'La Litanie...' is still, to my mind, an improvement and refinement over the debut, and one which creates an almost-flawless, lushly gorgeous mood of sweetly nostalgic sadness. I could listen to this all day. In fact, I just have, and the only thing I'd change is that it'd be the ideal soundtrack for a lonely autumn day rather than the blazing heat of high summer. As perfectly-formed an album of heartbreaking Gothic melancholy as any made since Sisters Of Mercy first laid down 'Some Kind Of Stranger'.

Editor's note: I feel the need to add, having now received the limited fold-out digipack version of the CD, that the packaging, with its lavish cut-outs and card inserts, is a perfect physical match for the labour of love that has clearly gone into the album. All credit to Matteo Nero Coppi at Shunu Records for coming up with such an unusual and fascinating frame for the music.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. A Shrine Of Clouds
2. Still Glowing Ashes
3. Twilight's Embrace
4. Inertia
5. Moonflower

Duration : Approx. 59 minutes

Visit the Angellore bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-08-13 by Mike Liassides
Rotten Copper
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