Lumen ad Mortem – Upon the Edge of Darkness (Review)

Lumen ad Mortem - Upon the Edge of DarknessLumen ad Mortem are a black metal band from Australia and this is their debut album.

Upon the Edge of Darkness is a 42-minute second wave symphonic black metal journey, played with grim determination and blackened intensity. This is an interesting release. Lumen ad Mortem’s style is influenced by the 90s black metal era, especially the symphonic side. However, taken by itself that statement is misleading.

The promo blurb states that this is for fans of Wolves in the Throne Room, Ash Borer, and Vanum. To this list I’d also add some bands like Emperor, Tómarúm, and Amiensus. You’ll note that only one of these named bands was part of the second wave in the 90s, and yet it is still an appropriate list to act as a rough guide of what to expect here. How come? Well, while Lumen ad Mortem wholeheartedly embrace the essence of the classic style, they also benefit from some more contemporary elements in their music, (the use of bass, the production, the occasional riff, the more brutal parts of their sound, etc.). This makes for a compelling mix of old and new, where the band manage to successfully stay true to the core style, while also not being limited by it.

Lumen ad Mortem have character, and they stamp this on their music with force. The songs are well-written and make good use of blackened dynamics and structure. The band deploy formidable melodies with skill, either as dark coloured textures or expressive leads. Infernal orchestration is never too far away from the material, coating the music in a grandiose malevolence that’s infectious and absorbing.

The symphonic, and, to a lesser extent, melodic aspects of Upon the Edge of Darkness are well-crafted and add thick atmosphere to the songs. This helps them to create strong moods and auras, despite how vicious or brutal the rest of the music might be. I find this combination of harsh aggression and layered atmosphere to be impressive and enjoyable; it’s a credit to the band’s songwriting skills that they can flay skin while also building mood so effectively.

Upon the Edge of Darkness is a powerful example of traditional symphonic black metal being played through the lens of contemporary artists. Lumen ad Mortem have taken the 90s style and brought it screaming into 2023, and it sounds pretty damn good.

Very highly recommended.


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