...

Have you ever attempted to describe a dream to someone? Not just the events, but the sensation of it: the way that, in the midst of things, it all feels real, materially and emotionally. There is an eye drifting above a pool of water; below, a pyramid rises from waves that crest in reverse, beginning to glow hot despite being cold to the touch. Inside rests the corpse of God. On and on. Dreams become nonsense outside of the head, rendered half-empty upon waking and fully when conveyed to someone else. And what could be worse than hearing the nonsense of someone else's recollected dream?

In my review of the new Spectral Lore + Mare Cognitum album, I mentioned it was tied for my album of the year with two others. Sweven's The Eternal Resonance, released last Friday, is one of the other two. In the brief space between then and now, a great deal has happened, largely revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic. I'd be lying by omission if I didn't mention how shaken I was, how choked a lot of the words here became. I've deleted and redrafted this a number of times in the past few days as things have worsened. It felt almost cheap and irresponsible to be talking about a record in the wake of everything. My mother is in her early 70s; while not an automatic death sentence, her getting the virus does at least give me serious pause as she's my sole remaining parental figure.

Seriously approaching reviewing a progressive metal record birthed from the ashes of a death metal band felt, at least for a window, like pissing into the wind.

But I kept putting the album on. Not necessarily to write, though I have to admit I vainly accepted that words would summon themselves up somehow. I did it because this captures perhaps my favorite sound, one which Morbus Chron were evolving toward; I even wrote rapturously about Sweven in the wake of the band's dissolution, my lips rich with praise that still feels like a pale shadow of what that record deserves. When it was announced that their main songwriter had formed a new project from the ashes of Morbus Chron and decided to title it off of that brilliant masterwork of a progressive death metal record to signify that even he knew this was the right direction to grow into, I was beyond ecstatic.

...

...

The Eternal Resonance doesn't fail to deliver on its promise. If you have heard Sweven, then you know where Robert Andersson takes this one. The connections to death metal are admittedly even more vestigial here, and in another timeline, it wouldn't even be called death metal. There are very few low-chugged riffs, nor even a lingering presence of thrash, and the drums literally never once stray toward the outwardly extreme. Thankfully, Tribulation has walked similar roads recently, roads which Opeth before them marked and paved. The best sonic companion to Sweven's approach is not Altars of Madness or None So Vile but instead albums like My Arms, Your Hearse and Children of the Night -- ones that linger in the haunted spectral domain caught somewhere between dream and death.

There is a lingering scent of illness here, like a distant rotting limb. This arrives at death metal the same way Radiohead arrives at progressive rock, not by replicating the sounds the genre is known for but by seizing up that root impulse that defines the genre and applying it against a different sonic backdrop; here, a psychedelic and progressive one. Make no mistake, though: The Eternal Resonance stares deep into death and the darkling dreams that murmur up out of it and hem its edges. They evolve from gothic ideas, but where typical gothic metal drives up the saccharine melodrama of death-doom and overlays cheesy operatic vocals, Sweven achieve a more opium-and-absinthe death meditation, laying sick and diseased in a mire as a horse distantly coughs, rattles, and dies.

The album could be more of a refinement of Sweven than a revolution. All the same pieces are here, but the execution is tighter. For Sweven the band, this means the opposite of what one might naturally think: the songs here are more meandering, the moods more aimless. But it is a deliberate aimlessness, one that aids in the morose and heartbreaking conceptual fixation that The Eternal Resonance manifests, gazing deep at sickness and loneliness and death and the terrifying isolation of dreaming. The timbre and mood reaches points of grievous meditation, the type for painful truths, ones beautiful in some objective and deep sense but no less painful. Isn't a mistake that Sweven's songs do not quickly get to their point but instead pace and wander via clean pianos, reverb-laden acoustic guitars, pained growls, synth pads, and dense cymbal work.

...

...

The lurid psychedelia of this music feels like a psychopomp emerging from the thick bath of incense smoke, emerging via opium to grip my hand tenderly and lead me into the cracking chasm of a cold earth below me. The Eternal Resonance makes me cry; not at its end like the Spectral Lore + Mare Cognitum release, but the whole way through. It may sound corny, and certain types of people have certainly conspired to make it harder to say something like this without getting laughed at, but this type of music is deeply spiritual to me.

It is the same sensation that pervades me when I listened to my all-time favorites -- it's difficult for me to objectively approach this with a critical eye because it feels so fully like a natural extension of my psyche, not even so much a soundtrack of my heart and my head and my memory and my experience, but the types of sounds those things would make if converted into music. Spirituality has been transformed for me from an outer experience to an inward one, one that tunnels deeper into the center of my heart via meditation and contemplation and witnessing. This sensation that The Eternal Resonance conjures, that of a phantasmal guide a la Virgil emerging to take me down into waiting stone, is an unshakable and profound one for me, tinged with the uncanny, like a repressed memory of death and entombment. It feels silly to say that something like that, something that's not real, not only moves me but moves me to tears. I know it is an irrational thing and perhaps doesn't translate to others well. But I can't truthfully omit it; it is foundational to my experience of the album.

That it can induce this sensation of the painful tranquility of death and death consciousness is profoundly important to me in times like these. Art is not always a method of solving problems; more often, it's a method of coping, of witnessing, of understanding. Little is more mysterious, more unsolvable than death and dying, a fact heavy metal and psychedelia both know well. The Eternal Resonance doesn't arrive at contemplation of death consciousness via ham-fisted and ridiculous concept album lyrics but instead by profound, intense, and incredibly moving ecstatic music, and that is its greatest strength.

...

The Eternal Resonance released last Friday via Ván Records.

...

Support Invisible Oranges on Patreon and check out our merch.

...