Karhmul of Abandoned by Light concludes his trilogy of albums (starting with the atmosphere dark ambient album As Witness to Passing Aeons, and then followed up with the raw Melancholia).
And Here I Stand Betwixt Light and Dark is the most polished, focused and sinister of the Abandoned by Light catalogue and expertly showcases many of Karhmul’s unique strengths; long songs with ear worm riffs that never outstay their welcome, masterfully accompanied by his piercing, sharp vocal delivery.
The goal of Betwixt was to combine the atmospheric efforts of Aeons with the rawness of Melancholia and this has resulted in an expert blend of the two distinctive sides to his style. It is particularly commendable when focusing on the instrumental opener ‘Caressed by the Dying Embers’ and how it’s beautifully stark and depressing ambience sets up the brutally aggressive Trepidation that immediately follows.
There is a lot more that is concise and focused on this album, it truly appears that Karhmul has really begun to master and craft that ‘Melancholic’ black metal sound that has since become a stronger staple of the project since prior albums from the year prior.
There are many highlights in an album like this that is quite lengthy; the title track itself continues to rage through at a blistering pace one minute with blast beats blaring over screaming guitar riffs, only find its groove at different speeds too. There’s a real sense of progression, weight and atmosphere to all of the songs on the album, and despite their run time, none ever outstay their welcome. Two examples of which include;
The single from the album, Journey Through the Everlasting Kingdom of Bone especially highlights these elements as the song chaotically weaves in and out; flickering between old school black metal brutality, to slower crushing riffs and dancing between long, emotional and atmospheric ambient pieces. Truly is something to marvel at.
Summoning Annihilation from Inferno’s Maw is essentially the opposite; and demonstrates the diversity of tone, stylistic choice and levels of aggression on display. The song revels in atmospheric, drenched in layered tremolo picked riffs; leaning a lot more on the rawness of the prior album and all the better for it in contrast.
The two cover songs I believe will be polarising depending on the kind of black metal people enjoy. Myrkur and Ghost Bath are very controversial figures in the genre at the moment and I commend the guts and bravery of Karhmul for wholeheartedly embracing two songs he loves and crafting his own spin on them. The Golden Number cover was especially moving; with Karhmul’s take on Nameless’ shoe-gaze style wailing being adapted in a powerful and haunting way.
Personally I didn’t really care much for the Myrkur cover as I am not a fan of the source material but I can definitely appreciate the level of depth and care that went into it. I hope that others listening can get a lot more of it than I did.
Production wise; this is Karhmul’s best yet. The drum work throughout is ever present and never drowns out the guitar work on display. The vocal range is impressive in itself, as is the way in which such emotion is bled from the listener on every word. Tonally strong lyrically and instrumentally from the first chord played, to the last that closes out the release.
In summary; Karhmul etches in stone another powerful, haunting and atmospheric release that rounds out a promising trilogy in a way that will leave very few people disappointed. It was a bold move and a hell of a risk and undertaking, but having the proof in front of me like this, there are few words as fitting for this dark, twisted masterpiece of an album.