Darkness and a quiet, lingering death beneath the gallows...
This album is like the final orgasmic gratification at the end of a long, slow hanging. If a noose weren't stopping up my throat I'd go 'Ahhhh...'
The blackness of the ambience is without pretense. It's simply that dark. These folks must enjoy being depressed because they're supremely talented at sucking the light out of the day... night is now twenty-four-seven. It's not just night... it's Night.
What seems to be a concept album truly creates its atmosphere partly because each song is given enough time to paint its picture. The beginning (title) track, Nektromanteia', sets the tone of the entire album by painting an ironically pleasantly bleak picture, making me feel like one happily awaiting Death, as they say, like an old friend. By the end of the second song, 'Entrance into the Garden', I'm calmly awaiting death when the 'Ritual of Eliphas' begins. Then the tension of real fear is created in the listener by a sinister ... can I call this a riff? Or just a sound from Elsewhere? The vocalist sounds like he's chanting in front of his victim, bringing a knife down to a throat. There are no corny sound effects nor maudlin elements anywhere on this masterpiece. This is a carefully, masterfully crafted art piece, a powerful creation, with the element of storytelling fully present: the exposition leads to rising action leads to climax, as tension is further built with the almost martially-rhythmed 'Seventeen'. In 'Bidding', the vocalist and mournful, wounded accompaniment leads us into a return to dark energies, leading to a climax as the vocalist realizes he's 'lost his place' - he's becoming angry and vengeful. The guitars, reminiscent of early Judith are perfectly part of the background as the vocalist, quiet yet powerfully in the forefront, foreshadow the darkness of coming evil. This song is the closest the band comes to heavy metal, and yet they STILL DON'T BREAK THE UNIFIED MOOD OF THE ALBUM!!!
The tension continues to build with an eerily sustained guitar singing in the background, and the coarse, vindictive voice threatens imminent action. In this track, 'Garden of Last Grace', we hear the early roots of Goth. Yet, the song has much more confidence and grace than many of those bands did. I don't want to say polish... because there's a power throughout this work that is both raw and refined, depending on the moment. Nonetheless, the band is unafraid to show its pedigree. In this track, I detect a homesickness for the days of Sisters of Mercy, but in no way is this a dance track unless a particularly expressive and artistic dancer is interpreting it. Sinister forces show themselves at the end of this song, which takes its time maintaining a steady mood of tense expectation in the listener, and the vocalist cries out in anguish at the very end.
The falling action and conclusion of this story comes in the comforting, ethereal keyboards of '4:28 am', a time in the morning that says something different to most of us who listen to music like this. (I remember Poppy Z. Brite writing in 'Lost Souls' something like "4:28am knows all of my secrets," as spoken by the character Ann to Ghost.)
Violins begin blending in with the keyboards and we go into 'Dissolve', as the soul of the anguished one is disintegrated ala Molly Parker's narrative in 'Kissed' - energy disintegrates and creates a brilliance unseen by anyone but those who Know Death. When I hear this track I can feel myself standing in the presence of Death, the dead, in a marma of brilliant spirit-light as someone leaves the mortal coil forever.
An interesting element is the willingness of the male vocalist to occasionally fade in and out of the music, like a spirit coming in and out of tune with the mind open enough to hear it, yet being still in the flesh cannot always perfectly stay attuned...
Only in Death can we truly cross over to the place where Fields of Aplomb appear to be - their hearts are already with Charon, across the River Styx.