Written by Barlovv
Antecantamentum – Saturnine December
> Black metal
> California, US
> Released December 9
As stunning and ferocious as the project’s name is a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, Antecantamentum‘s new album Saturnine December, released December 9th, has been thrust upon an unsuspecting public in what I can only assume is an effort to force everyone to restart the eighth draft on their album of the year award lists. This is, no question, one of the best pieces of black metal released this year and from the tale told in the liner notes, it’s been a long fucking time coming.
Per Antecantamentum, the album started back in 2016—with some portions going as far back as 2006—and when a house fire claimed everything else the artist owned, there was a reasonable assumption that this album was lost too. Thankfully, the drives were miraculously preserved and now here we are in 2022 and Saturnine December is here to remind us that black metal is maybe one of the purest distillations of the dichotomy between beauty and absolute fucking fury. While I’d love to share some of the lyrics with you, Antecantamentum is keeping those close to the vest for now, but suffice it to say, the album feels deeply personal, and you really do get the sense that someone is working through something, even without the additional context of the hell that the album went through to simply exist.
So, unable to dig too much into lyrical themes, lets talk about the performances on this album, because holy fucking shit is there a lot to say. Melpomenë is an absolute fucking dynamite vocal performer, first off. There really is some top-tier work on display, in a genre that can swing wildly in the quality of the vocalists. These are some dark and fucking furious screams that really bring everything together in a satisfying way. On top of vocal duties, Melpomenë is also bringing guitar, bass, virtual instrument programming, field recordings, mixing, mastering, and even the visual design of the damn thing. Apparently being singularly talented isn’t enough for some people (please read that as sarcastic and understand that I am unflattering shades of green with envy at the cross section of ability on display).
Lest you think, however, that Melpomenë is keeping all the jobs for themselves, let’s talk about the other name you’ll see in the notes of her album. The one and only, extremely talented Iōhannēs. They feature on the tracks “Wraith”, “Saturnine December”, and “Luna Cadens”, lending some vocals and bass (both regular and fretless) across them. So, my two favourite black metal artists of 2022 are together, and I’m definitely not thinking of how to snatch up Antencantmentum for my label like a greedy little rat. Definitely not. Also, let’s just add one more person to the pile here shall we? You’ve also got a cello performance on “Saturnine December” from Kakophonix, and just like everything else on this album, it’s fucking great. There’s something so effortlessly haunting about a cello, and someone who knows how to wield that thing will change the whole fucking mood of a song and crush your heart into dust. A stunning instrument, and one that should be on more albums like this.
Melpomenë describes their album as one of contradictions, and I’m not sure I agree. The album feels so cohesive that the discordant elements only serve to compliment each other. Now, it’s possible this is more a factor of my own personal brain wiring and the nihilism and the beautiful cello just strike the good parts of my brain in the right spots, but hey, it’s my brain and it’s my review so…there. There is a hopefulness in the anguish that Saturnine December presents, a cleansing rain after a fire, say. This really does feel like a rebirth story, from the ashes and trauma comes an absolute fucking belter of an album to close out 2022 and honestly, we could probably just call the year here and be just fine.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Saturnine December is a truly stunning album and from the sounds of it one that is getting some much deserved praise around the community. If you’re a fan of black metal and don’t want to worry about whether or not the band is a secret nazi, you should already have this in your collection. If you’re still on the fence (I mean, what’s your problem?) then hopefully the 700 odd words I wrote before these ones have already sold you on the experience. It’s fucking great, and I’m eyeing my drafted album of the year list and wondering if I need to make a cut. Thanks a lot, Antecantamentum.