Album: Terra Inanis
Record Label: Transcending Obscurity
Release date: 15 May 2017
1. Soliloquy of Lament
2. The Alnwick Apotheosis
3. Transcendental Dysphoria
If a band promises atmospheric black metal by subtitling their album as such via their Bandcamp, they’d be daft not to deliver. Australia’s Somnium Nox thankfully avoids this epithet and their first album, Terra Inanis (following 2016’s ‘Apocrypha’ single) fits the description exactly: three introspective deluges of pure black atmosphere.
Beyond this description, there is very little to be said about the album: it’s practically a textbook example of atmospheric black metal done right. Sure, the unexpected didgeridoos are a welcome and haunting addition, but the incorporation of traditional instrumentation has become a genre cliché – although points must be given for their use: whether forward in the mix (as on the introduction to ‘Soliloquy of Lament’) or as an ambient device, Somnium Nox tastefully employ this unique Australian instrument . They never veer into overtly folk territories: instead, it imparts a delightful foreboding to what are already fairly menacing proceedings. Apart from that, there are clean acoustic passages, feedback-laced interludes, beautifully contrasting key segues and a full complement of black metal growls, shrieks, whispers and sibilant murmurs throughout the 9-minute-plus arrangements. Just what the trve black doctor ordered.
What Somnium Nox do achieve, however, is a diversion from the tried-and-tested “hypnotic repetition” process of songwriting – as defined by Hvis Lyset Tar Oss-era Burzum and recycled by any number of atmospheric black metal acts. The Australian duo employs a modular construction, where individual passages are linked by subtly evolving, shifting melodies. This imparts both an overriding theme that flows throughout each composition, but also offers more dynamism than is present in the more conventional approach. This gives a more organic, intuitive result, where the music takes breaths (in the form of softer intervals) as precursors to the violence they then unleash in violent stabs. Overall a hugely dramatic sound is achieved, with bombastic drums driving the key-based melodies.
Another obstacle Somnium Nox overcome – one other acts within the genre often falter at – is the live performance aspect. The duo have expanded their roster with guest artists (including Forge from Norse on drums) to play a series of Australian gigs in support of this album. Perhaps it is the solitary nature of atmospheric black metal  that precludes the live performance aspect, so it is a welcome change to have a band in the genre reproducing their music on stage.
Terra Inanis delivers exactly what it promises. Somnium Nox have crafted an excellent example of tangled, emotional atmosphere on this album, and are going the extra mile in its presentation, too; on top of live performances, they offer a large variety of physical formats of the album for sale , all topped off with some gorgeous artwork (courtesy of vocalist Ashahalasin). In fact, there is very little on the album with which to find fault, apart from its short lifespan – the three tracks come in at a hair under half an hour in total.
1. Deaf To All But Metal interviews member Nocturnal on their podcast highlighting their history, philosophy and recording process, as well as delivering a live taste of his didgeridoo skills.
2. Vice magazine’s famous documentary, ‘One Man Metal’ highlights the isolation and misanthropy that typify the genre by showcasing Leviathan, Xasthur and Striborg’s contributions to atmospheric black metal.
3. Though none quite as extreme as Drudkh’s laser-engraved wooden box version of A Furrow Cut Short – thereby making beautiful, unique packaging another hallmark of atmospheric black metal.