Lẽtum – The Face Of Life And Death

Lẽtum – The Face Of Life And Death CD Mathias Henriksson 2021

Personally, I have always viewed Lẽtum as one of the three pinnacle dark ambient projects emerging from the classic era of Cold Meat Industry, with the other two being raison d’etre and Desiderii Marginis. However, Lẽtum has ended up being lesser recognised and somewhat overshadowed given Lẽtum’s debut came out in 2001, which at that point in time the other mentioned projects were already well established. Yet now in 2021, it would be a significant mistake to continue overlooking Lẽtum given the project’s albums represent quintessential examples of sacral toned dark ambient music.

With reference to prior albums, I intently followed the project through to 2014’s The Fifth State of Grief, and while far from being a bad album I found it a slight letdown in comparison to prior releases due to some of the orchestral synth pads sounding overly synthetic, while a few melodious passages felt more suited to a dungeon synth style and therefore not typically what I would expect from a Lẽtum album. Consequently, 2019’s Shades Of A Lost World passed me by, where I only picked up the Lẽtum thread again with this new fifth album, which incidentally marks 20 years of activity of the project. I must then admit that The Face Of Life And Death has absolutely blown me away, and been the most listened to dark ambient album of recent times. As an initial observation, the emotively titled tracks are ample mood descriptors, such as: Shadows In The Abyss; Echoes From A Time Without End; The Hidden Vastness; A Seared Conscience; The Beauty Of Miserable Souls; Afraid Of The Void etc, and when coupled with the album title, it seems to allude to a broader concept of spiritual existentialism.

Musically speaking all of the hallmarks of sacral toned dark ambient music is here: the choral vocal textures; the ever-shifting inky black drones; the sparse doom addled rhythmics; the controlling creaking metallics; the deeply emotive orchestral melodies; the lamenting piano/church organ etc. Likewise, as far as dark ambience goes, it is an ‘all in’ scenario, where full immersion is required to appreciate the album in its totality, which spans eight tracks over 47 minutes. Without being a mere re-tread of what has come before, the lamenting minimalist soundscapes are expertly controlled and display clear compositional refinement and emotive depth in the delivery of such high calibre consecrated soundscapes. The end result is Lẽtum’s most sophisticated album to date, and now that I have since become acquainted with 2019’s Shades Of A Lost World, I would also categorise it as the strongest given it has that ‘special’ aura of an exceptional album.

Although The Face Of Life And Death does not flip the script on sacral toned dark ambience, this new recording from Lẽtum is delivered with such flair and emotive impact that it absolutely demands attention. Suitable imagery pressed as a four-panel digipack function to round out the physical presentation, for what is a highly recommended album from these quarters.

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