The expanse opens before you, the sky slowly turning red as the sun dips below the horizon and the world turns on its axis. The vast lands below shiver as the warmth ebbs away from the earth and the darkness creeps across the rolling hills. The spectre of death looms as the pitch black drifts closer and the promise of absolution lies tantalisingly out of reach. Consolamentum, the immersion of the self in the Holy Spirit, comes to those confirming their faith and to those taking their final breaths, giving themselves over to a higher power and becoming perfect in the eyes of God. Pleasure is sin and sin must be cleansed before reaching the enlightened halls of the heavens. Such is the image that Consolamentum conjures in its cinematic swells of sound on Year of No Light’s first full-length in eight years and comes during their twentieth anniversary as a band who have become known to push the boundaries of the post-metal genre.

For Year of No Light, this ritual is conceptualised throughout the album as it begins on the dark dynamism of “Objuration” and moves on to cleansing, fear and ascension through death as Consolamentum explores the ideology behind supplication and achieving perfection, and the darkness those ceremonies can create. The French sextet have long been fascinated with structure — of the world and our place in it, how we as humankind have changed it and how the past still dictates our future. With Nord they began this journey of understanding the purpose of people on earth and threaded those initial ideas into Ausserwelt, eventually reaching higher planes with the incredible Tocsin of 2013 which reimagined their world as a warning of what was still to come.

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Consolamentum further navigates this journey on towering arrangements that invoke tangible emotion. The interpretation of these themes depends on your own personal relationship with faith and one reading of the Year of No Light’s work could be that the band’s fears that coloured their earlier work are grounded in cruel reality as our planet suffers in a myriad of ways in the present. We have not learned from the past, and so now our sins must be absolved by this ritual of cleansing and accepting our flaws in order to leave them behind.

“Objuration” opens with Year of No Light slowly layering their instruments as guitars reverberate against rumbling, effects driven strikes of bass while the song slides into its heightened form and radiant melodies push through into the light. The band utilises two drum kits for exceptional constructions of sound that wrap themselves around the progressions of the guitars, building rhythm and texture over echoing harmony while synthesised elements tie the threads together in a way that borders on the overwhelming, a breathless submersion in warm resonance before the song falls away from the cliff edges that have been conjured and into the abyss. Year of No Light creates sonic imagery that flares with conviction: their aural world is ablaze with colour and “Objuration” is lit by the fiery sun that descends to the horizon as night draws in.

As that darkness gathers and begins to spread, the gentle beats of “Alétheia” and its electronic inflections gain a foothold on the landscape. As the pace ramps up and broadens its grip on the song, so does the idea that the night brings with it a sense of impending death. It echoes as a heartbeat, gaining speed in its final moments in order to push through the veil to the next world before exploding into a constellation of sound and drama. It is in these moments that Year of No Light reaches the zenith of their powers as curators of cinematic post- metal. There is a sense of elation, a catharsis in the build-up and a relief when it breaks free from the constraints of the temporal world to reach utopia.

Consolamentum pulses through the fear inducing waves of “Interdit aux Vivants, aux Morts et aux Chiens,” its climbing screams of guitar feeding the idea that death is moving ever closer and the window for absolution is closing. “Réalgar” then sets toward the acceptance of the inevitable and impending doom. The feeling of being “consoled” and cleansed of life's sins rears in the song's churning crescendos and iridescent guitar lines that expand and collapse as if they are breaths being taken while gathering the necessary tools to partake in the ceremony. Year of No Light illuminates the pathway to ascension with tactile layers of sound that act as stepping stones.

The final reckoning comes in the monumental progressions of “Came”: the time for passing over has arrived in pounding drums and ecclesiastical synthesised lines that act as a beacon for the ultimate end: complete exoneration from sin and to stand as a pure spirit after death. Many have strived for this ideal through the ages, and to be seen as exceptional in the eyes of God is something that many proponents of religion have given their lives for. Year of No Light have given us warnings in the past and have stylised their own world in a way that should mean that Consolamentum is not what it seems to be on the surface. It could be a narrative of transcendence through death and reaching the highest plane possible, or rather it might be a cautionary tale of the dangers that come with believing in something other than yourself and the sacrifices that must be made to reach the expectations of others. To sin is to be human, after all.

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Consolamentum released on July 2nd via Pelagic Records.