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When I hear Negative Plane, I hear ghosts. They shred - Dick Dale melting down picks, Destruction's "Mad Butcher" scampering across strings, '80s goth guitar gods making every pale note count. But they don't say "look at me", like how shredders often do. Those hair farmers usually use their axes diagonally: low frets, low strings; high frets, high strings - in other words, riffs and solos. Nothing wrong with that, but there's magic elsewhere on the guitar, too.

I fetishize areas of the guitar neck like people fetishize areas of the body. High up on low E is tubular and slinky; middle of the neck, 12th fret, is juicy. And low down on high E, where "Mad Butcher" tosses off filigrees of pull-offs, is where the blues happens. Not post-Stevie Ray-when-will-this-white-guy-stop-soloing blues, but old-timers attacking those wires because the blues is all they've got.

Stained Glass Revelations (The AJNA Offensive/Invictus Productions, 2011) gets low down on high E. It has a twang and tang that black metal's blur usually lacks. 2006's Et in Saecula Saeculorum was thick with reverb; here, the atmosphere is distant. Everything seems to be around the corner. Tendrils of melody curl through the air like errant smoke. Negative Plane have opened up their sound. Some might call it proggy; yes, it has an organ. But, really, they've just opened up their black mass to the ghosts of generations.

Death is everywhere, and Timo Ketola is its artist. The album cover is underwhelming, but Ketola didn't have much to do with it. The real magick lies inside. He graces each song with an illustration or photo, giving life to words that seem to come from the dead. (In other words, get the vinyl.) One song has two words that sum up this record perfectly: "living corpse". The lyrics are obsessed with death, but not celebrating of it; death comes with "Lamentations & Ashes". Ketola's illustration for the song riffs on Michelangelo's Adam-God tête-à-tête. A human hand reaches out to a bony, wizened one. But they might belong to the same being: a "living corpse" that wins head-cutting contests with a six-string axe.

Obscurantism is not one of my favored values. I like things in-my-face. But Negative Plane have made art with it and harnessed a timeless energy. Candles, pseudonyms, and gothic fonts don't have to be just shtick.

— Cosmo Lee

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- Full album stream -

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Amazon (CD)
Amazon (MP3)
The AJNA Offensive (CD, shirts)
Invictus Productions (EU) (CD, shirts)

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