Profane Grace – Nocturnal Omniscience

Profane

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.

raison d’etre – In Sadness, Silence And Solitude / raison d’être – The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice

RD1

RD2

raison d’etre – In Sadness, Silence And Solitude DCD :retortae: 2014

raison d’être – The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice DCD Ewers Tonkunst 2012

Noting raison d’etre have in recent years been facilitating a program of reissuing of earlier albums here are yet two more albums in this ongoing re-release agenda.  However rather than these representing mere reprints, each of these new versions have been substantially expanded through the inclusion of a second disc of additional content.

‘In Sadness, Silence And Solitude’ represents the earlier of the two, being originally released way back in 1997 (…it may also be of interest that this album holds a rather special place for this reviewer, as it was one of albums critiqued in the first issue of Spectrum Magazine from 1998).  To provide context within raison d’etre’s own discography, ‘In Sadness, Silence And Solitude’ presented a large stylistic leap away from composed song structures of earlier material.  Effectively the sound shifted towards abstract droning territory by evoking barren windswept soundscapes, but maintaining links with the past through fleeting flourishes of Gregorian vocal chants, chimes, sparse ritualistic percussion, wailing horns, swelling quasi-orchestral synth melodies and morose piano notes.   On the first disc it contains 6 original album tracks, which have been augmented by an additional 2 live tracks as well as a previously unreleased composition.  For the second disc of this expanded edition, it contains 13 additional pieces, by bringing together 9 previously issued compilation tracks and further 4 unreleased compositions. Noting that all of the material spread across the 2 discs derives from same time period (1996-97, with some being live versions of the main album tracks), they display a stylistic similarity which greatly assists in collective coherence of the listening experience.  Additionally all tracks of this 2 disc expanded edition have been fully restored and remastered for optimal sonic impact.

Regarding ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’ this constitutes an expanded edition of raison d’etre’s most recent album from 2009 (excluding the two live album released in 2010 and 2012 respectively).  On the first disc it contains the original album tracks (without augmentation), which follow raison d’etre’s established framework of abstract soundscapes and sparse monastic chants.  However the sound is also slightly more animated and layered on ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’, with a greater focus on sonic elements which embody a jagged, scrapping and metallic tonality, as well as scant harmonic/ disharmonic piano notes and sparse angular orchestral strings and brass tones.  Noting the intense and occasionally invasive sound quality, ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’ very much manages to balance a duality of sound and approach.  Thus the album is imbedded with an atmosphere which sways from being angelic and serene, to a feeling of being heavily oppressive (…something akin to the hellish torment of the damned).  For the expanded edition, disc 2 contains 6 additional tracks (spanning 60 minutes) which constitute previously unreleased early versions of the original album tracks.  Seemingly with these bonus tracks being constructed from the same sound sources as the main album tracks, they very much feel like alternate remixed versions.

Both releases come housed in 6 panel fold out digi-card covers which faithfully recreates the original album artwork and provides a new physical platform in which raison d’etre can continue to be appreciated as one of dark ambient’s exceptional and enduring artists.  All to do now is wait for the imminent release of new album ‘Mise en Abyme’ to see what it reveals.