Profane Grace – Nocturnal Omniscience CD Ewers Tonkunst 2010
Profane Grace are a project I have known of for many, many years, but only previously having heard their 5th album ‘Epitaph Of Shattered Dreams’ from 1999. Likewise up until now I had not delved into their biography to see exactly who was behind the project, although did have an impression they were linked to the underground metal scene. This perception was duly confirmed following a little bit of recent background investigation, where it seems Profane Grace have been around since 1992 and have direct linage to the American black metal band Demoncy. ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ is their 7th and latest album (…but already near a half decade old).
Stylistically Profane Grace evoke dark ambient music which very much fits in with the ‘Cold Meat Industry’ sound of the mid to late 90’s, meaning gloomy, sub-orchestral soundscapes and horror soundtrack type atmospheres are the prevalent focus. Likewise with their connection to the black metal scene, Profane Grace could be slotted under either the ‘black ambient’ and/ or ‘dungeon synth’ banners, noting other similar ‘black ambient’/ ‘dungeon synth’ projects include: Mortiis (era 1), Darkness Enshroud, Valefor, Aghast, Cernunnos Woods, Æva etc.
Of the 9 albums tracks which span an hour’s length, each composition is catatonic in pace and broadly embodies the atmosphere of a dank crypt, which evokes further visions of narrow passages and cavernous spaces lit only by light emitted from a lone flickering candle. Musically the sound is achieved predominantly with synthetic means, to generate abstract droning textures and deep mine shaft echoes, which are augmented by the droll tolling of funeral bells, occasional organ dirges, dragging chains, rasping unintelligible vocalisations, low monastic chants (unclear whether sampled or synth generated), scrapping metallic textures, sparse ritual chimes etc. Whilst many tracks are quite sparse and abstract, others such as ‘Trilogy of the Unangled Plain III’ are structured around a central maudlin quasi-orchestral synth melody, or in the case of ‘Hymns to Selket’ are driven by slow booming tympani percussion.
To its credit ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ achieves a depth and complexity much greater than ‘Epitaph Of Shattered Dreams’, which although played with a very similar sound palate, came across as more simplistic and one dimensional and a tad cheesy on some tracks as the synthetic means of music production simply did not match the pomp and majesty of the attempted medieval/ orchestral melodies. Although there is clearly nothing new or unique about what Profane Grace do that is not really the point, as ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ achieves a particular occult infused dark ambient sound with absolute ease. A cardboard slip sleeve with spot varnished images completes the packaging in simple and stylish means.