Heavy metal's obsession with hell below has been well explored and overly dissected since the genre's beginnings. But for every heavy metal songwriter who praises Satan and shouts about witches, there are almost as many who look to the terrifying unknown of the stars above for their metallic inspiration. Australian musician Dis Pater has become one of the best at communicating the emotions and uncertainty of cosmic chaos, spending the last decade crafting sprawling soundscapes that are anchored in black metal and shrouded in atmospherics with his main musical project, MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY.
As with Pater's previous output under the MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY banner, "Biolume Part 1 – In Tartarean Chains" is another one-man show. Drum machines and faux-orchestral synthesizers play heavily into Pater's instrumental compositions, but instead of using those tools as a crutch, he uses them to build a tasteful foundation for expansive explorations of the balance between musical beauty and musical brutality. On his latest effort, Pater merges his astral obsessions with tales of fallen gods from Greek mythology, crafting hypnotic music that is equally epic in nature.
The majority of tracks are over ten minutes long, but the twists and turns taken on the trip through each track is never boring. Pater's vocals typically alternate between caustic howls and melodic choral croons, but he had already hit the ground running on picking the best spots to make that shift on his spectacular 2011 double-disc debut, "Funerals From the Astral Sphere". On this record, he does lean heavier on melody, but every one of those moments is absolutely gorgeous and absolutely earned. The most indicative track of Pater's musical refinement is simply titled, "Biolume". The highlight of the record, "Biolume" begins with ambient synths reminiscent of a TANGERINE DREAM film score, followed by a slow burn towards the synths becoming more ominous and in turn followed by a blistering barrage of programmed drums. The most guttural growls to be found on the record are here, before climaxing with a lulling melody that is bolstered by what can best be described as the goth version of a barber shop quartet choral croon. It's a moment that would derail many lesser musicians that are throwing as many ingredients in the pot as possible, but in the hands of Pater, it is timed perfectly to come off as a genuinely cathartic moment.
The moments of melody are the high points of the record, but there's also some masterful displays on the heavier side of Pater's creative expression. "Forever Silenced" is punctuated by a pounding repetitive metallic dirge. The gravellier side of Pater's vocal deliveries sound haunting over the spectral Theremin that underpins the mood-setting album opener, "Hidden in Tartarus". A triumphant prog-metal barrage begins the appropriately titled "A Storm Before The Dawn". "Of Golden Age Descended" is another expertly executed exercise in repetitive metallic hypnosis with bits of more traditional folk-metal lurking within, before Pater brings the record to a close with the engrossing synth-and-vocals-only comedown of "Pillars In The Sky".