In 2019, Ringarë emerged out of infinite obscurity with one of the best metal albums of the 2010s, Under Pale Moon. I'll never forget when one of my fellow metal journalist friends randomly messaged me: "This is so cool!" The band's combination of raw black metal production with sweeping and epic songwriting immediately won me over. Here was a band that perfectly captured the spirit of 1993 EP-era Emperor and took things to their logical conclusion. The two-man project of Alex Poole (you may know him from Krieg or Chaos Moon) and Likpredikaren had accomplished an incredible masterstroke and placed themselves in the pantheon alongside Obsequiae, Hulder, and Spectral Wound as making today's best black metal.
Since then, the band has produced the excellent Sorrow Befell demo (which is basically another album to me), and the entrancing synth-symposium of Thrall of Winter's Majesty. These releases, along with Under Pale Moon, established the band as consistent purveyors of dark, lo-fi majesty. And so in the dying days of 2023, we are gifted with Of Momentous Endless Night, the band's new album on Avantgarde Music.
One thing that immediately strikes you as different on this album is the production. The instrumentation is actually very similar to the band's previous output, but it's cast in a very new light. It's as if the older material was recorded in the same way, but with an aggressive low-pass filter applied in the DAW that cut the sharp edges off the guitars, symbols, and kick drums. This time, those lights are permitted to shine in all their power and glory.
This pushes the sonic comparisons forward a bit to Moon in Scorpio-era Limbonic Art, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant-era Dimmu Borgir, and Anthems-era Emperor. Occasionally a stray riff will recall moments of Obtained Enslavement, Memoria Vetusta-era Blut Aus Nord (parts one and two) or For Snow Covered the Northland-era Ancient Wisdom. You get the idea. There's many ghosts of symphonic black metal past present on this album, but Ringarë is also talented enough to conjure their own spirits.
In many cases, the heightened production quality serves to give extra power and punch to the four epic compositions. This is evident from the start of "Usurping Dark Magicks," a song that shows all the band's talents for weaving haunting vocals, irresistible riffs, and evocative synth and piano work. Likpredikaren's harsh vocals still sit in the back of the mix, their character happily unchanged since Under Pale Moon.
There is another new feature, however: semi-operatic clean vocals. These lend the music yet more atmosphere, emphasizing the feelings of longing and melancholy that are so characteristic to this style of black metal. Look out for these especially on "Shadow Coronation," an totally crushing ripper of a song. If you never thought music could be brutal and enchanting at the same time, listen to this song. It's a lot like what Esoctrilihum does, in fact … but maybe not as insane.
I should address the part played by drummer Jack Blackburn, who joined the fold on 2021's Thrall of Winter's Majesty. You could hear a lot of Jack's drumming prowess on that record, but it's far more present here. To be sure, it adds a level of virtuosity that makes the album all the more impressive. That said, the kick-drum sound in particular does take some getting used to, as it does sound a little clicky — almost resembling the sound you'd expect in a tech-death band.
But of course, you come to this band for the guitars and synths, delivered by Alex Poole. And they truly give you everything you could want on this album, including on "Blood Pact Vindication," which I have to guess is the follow up to "Blood Pact Sanctity" from Sorrow Befell. A fitting sequel to one of my favorites. Also pay attention to how everything comes together on "Of Mages and Mystics," featuring some absolutely sublime piano and guitar combinations.
Of Momentous Endless Night provides the listener with a thought-provoking and epic journey into the heart of winter. I'll always have a special affinity for the earlier works, but can certainly appreciate the muscular approach taken here as well.