CRONIAN
"Terra"

(Century Media)

01. Diode Earth
02. Arctic Fever
03. Cronian
04. Iceolated
05. Coloures
06. The Alp
07. Nonexistence
08. Illumine
09. End(Durance) – Part I

RATING: 8/10

If it walks like a BORKNAGAR album, quacks like a BORKNAGAR album, and is comprised entirely of members of BORKNAGAR, who can it be? Uh, CRONIAN, apparently.

That's being a bit glib — there are differences between this two-man project (featuring Øystein G. Brun and Mr. V, a/k/a Vintersorg) and the bands these men come from, although most of the world won't hear said differences, or be arsed to care. The keyboards are there, the post-black-metal prog bent, the soaring clean vocals tempered with hoarse and blackened croaks… but there's something altogether more cinematic going on in "Terra"'s frozen heart.

Reportedly recorded in the midst of killing sub-zero temperatures, and peppered with quotes from quixotically doomed Antarctic explorer Robert F. Scott and photos of cracking ice floes, one might expect a sort of, well, coldness from "Terra". Not of the freezing, grim, primal-black-metal variety, of course (I mean, the booklet's in color, for chrissakes). Think more of, say, the soundtrack to a glaringly bright documentary about the vast, lonely emptiness of the fatal, snowbound poles. There's a sweeping, epic quality to the music, and while it's fairly lush and orchestrated in spots, there's also a disarming, plaintive simplicity to it — very evocative stuff, the sort of album you put on the headphones and listen to with eyes closed in the dark.

Of course, as the band themselves sing, "the greatest Alp is my own perception... progression is the only ladder". The whole stinkin' thing may just be a metaphor for life's solitary journeys. They also sing about "the flesh [being] frozen, covered by layers of numbing snowflakes", too, though, so that theory may be out the window. Either way you want to look at it, though, it can't be denied that this is some high-art stuff, with a very regal feel to it, a bit more warm and accessible, and rooted in traditional songwriting, than a lot of the fly-off-the-handle stuff that gets lumped into the "post-black-metal" category.

It doesn't lack guitars, but it has an almost soothing quality, with a lot of nicely orchestrated parts that carry more emotion than one might expect. And yes, at the end of the day, the similarities to modern-day BORKNAGAR are enough to warrant interest from that band's fans, although CRONIAN is really only tangentially "metal" (mainly because no other genre's fans would recognize these guys enough to give them space on the record shelf). If projects like AGE OF SILENCE and SOLEFALD excite you, CRONIAN should be tops on your must-have list, because they transform and transcend genre boundaries, raising the stakes of post-black metal and carving beautifully unforgiving worlds of ice out of sound. A trip well worth taking.

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