Celestial nightmares and exclusion from light

GRAND CELESTIAL NIGHTMARE: Excluded From Light And The Pleroma

Release year: 2022
Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions/New Era Productions

Grand Celestial Nightmare – whose name sounds like another silly Dimmu Borgir album title – is another in a long list of projects by one Mories. Quite possibly his most famous project is the horror-themed black noise project Gnaw Their Tongues. And, at least when you’ve got this nugget of knowledge in the back of your mind, you can actually hear some parallells.

No, Grand Celestial Nightmare isn’t nightmarish. But it’s laden with symphonic elements and orchestrations – much like Gnaw Their Tongues. And, in a sense, both suffer from the same shortcomings much due to this.

The promo text describes Excluded From Light And The Pleroma as “Epic Symphonic & Hellenic-style Black Metal.” Well, 50% accurate. The album certainly is symphonic and at least strives to be epic, but it’s not particularly “Hellenic”, if by that you mean the classic Greek sound. The promo sheet goes on to state that the album was “inspired by all the classics from the nineties”, which sounds about right.

My strongest association here is early Seth, from way before the French act released their debut album – going all the way back to their 1997 EP By Fire, Power Shall Be…; there’s the same kind of achingly melancholic sense of melody here from time to time. But Grand Celestial Nightmare keep on piling the symphonic elements, bringing the whole at times closer to something like Bal-Sagoth, but without all the fun that prime Bal-Sagoth had.

The problem isn’t that the orchestrations and symphonic elements aren’t well done in themselves, because they are. The problem is that there are large swathes on this album, where the music itself is dead boring and it’s only the soundscape that carries it. The guitars become a redundant background buzz, and we’re left with swelling, booming orchestrations to pique our interest – not even melodies. It’s kind of like comparing the soundtrack of Skyrim to Morrowind, if you’re a gamer: where the latter had plenty of memorable melodies, the former is just endlessly booming, supposedly epic soundscapes.

And it’s just this very thing that has always bothered me about Gnaw Their Tongues as well – well, bothered me some 10-12 years ago, when I semi-actively checked out their new releases. The project might have gone places since then, but I kind of lost interest. It felt to me like the whole focus was on a rather limited bag of tricks revolving around sound design and worn-out orchestral horror tricks. The actual compositions were kind of flat.

With all of that said, Excluded From Light And The Pleroma isn’t a bad album. There are moments where things click into place, and Mories finds a working combination between classic mid-to-late 90’s melodic black metal and the symphonic elements. However, for large parts of the time, the album is reduced to what is essentially black metal muzak: works in the background, but that’s about it.

Of course, Mories isn’t some two-bit hack: the man can handle his instruments and arrangements, and I’ve no dobut that the album sounds just like he wanted it to sound. I guess it’s just a case of different ideas on what is interesting music and what isn’t. For me, this album is just uninteresting. Not bad, not shit, just… uninteresting for large parts of it’s rather sensible 40-minute runtime.

Visit Mories’ Bandcamp for Grand Celestial Nightmare stuff and more

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