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TenHornedBeast - The Lamp Of No Light

TenHornedBeast - The Lamp Of No Light coverTenHornedBeast are not ones to be rushed, neither in composition nor in releasing albums. The Lamp Of No Light (Hymns For The Yorkshire Doom Stone) is their first album since 2017's Death Has No Companion. That previous album focussed on death, its expansive sombre laments of wintery drone designed to accompany the listener on the loneliest of walks both in the inner and the outerworld. The Lamp Of No Light is also fixated on death but this time its focus is not on the landscape but on a specific structure and a journey leading from mortal death to eternal death. That structure is the doom stone, a 12th century carved relief set within the crypt of York Minster, depicting lost souls being cast into a cauldron by devils and demons, with further depictions of the mouths of hell. It is this structure which it is believed once formed part of the Norman Minster which pre-dated the current building, now castigated to the lightless crypt of York Minster which TenHornedBeast use as the impetus for the ideas they extrapolate upon on The Lamp Of No Light.

Something stirs from the solemn almost religious drone of the opening 'This Is The First Death', creaking like the opening of a door, a tomb, or perhaps to the crypt which holds the doom stone. An eerie languorous drone rises and falls as if something is slowly awakening. Crepuscular percussion rumbles and reverberate piercing the black atmosphere of malevolence. Towards the end the arcing drone cycles become layered and unfurl in an almost cinematic manner, with some sounding like pained cries from the depths.

The music of TenHornedBeast evolves at a funeral pace with drones stretched out, and layered with slight percussive flourishes and elements of noise extracted from low-end bass and guitar feedback. And yet there's a continual tension and dynamism within its structure which keeps things interesting. A rumbling drone runs underneath 'Into The Mouth Of Hell' but the real activity occurs above in slow pensive movements, perhaps on a bass sounding like a cello, amidst explosive and crashing thuds, which become more frequent, sucked up with grating and at times whistling frequency tones, creeping onwards in deep yielding movements. TenHornedBeast often take a minimalist approach but this one is extremely dense crafting discordant noise and feedback over the crashing rhythmic pummels and electronic rumble. The mix obscures the instrumentation but this seems cut from bass and guitar noise, and towards the end of this 12-minute track it's more akin to a doom version of Ramleh if they were on downers. This track of course illustrates the gaping mouths of hell, some of which are being licked by toads in this grotesque but beautifully preserved sculpture.

The TenHornedBeast sound is often described quite aptly as monolithic but 'Upon Their Head Names Of Blasphemy' which is just as discordant as the previous track allows glints of light to pierce the dank atmosphere or at least permits the sound to become slightly more spacious as deep electronics stabs jostle with the ricocheting clatter of metal bells being struck, infused with streams of ringing guitar feedback. Perhaps the metallic sounds represent avarice, as the stone structure depicts women with purses hanging around their neck. TenHornedBeast don't allow it to become chaotic though, everything, like all of their compositions, is carefully controlled ensuring a slow but constant momentum.

'Black Furnace' is steeped in darkness and buried in a thick cavernous wash capturing TenHornedBeast at their bleakest. Distant percussion clatters as it gets progressively darker sinking into an all consuming buzzing drone, and with each percussive roll it's as if screams are arising from another soul being tortured and pushed into "hell's cauldron", the engraving, featuring demons holding the damned to the flames, as sculpted into the free-standing stone.

Following their mortal death, 'This Is The Second Death' represents the eternal death of the tormented souls. In arcing drones and windswept tones this is TenHornedBeast at their most subtle. Perhaps, it doesn't stray too far from what has came before but as a solemn dread like hymn for a structure now held in the darkness of the crypt it is a fitting epitaph, marking the final stopping point on those lost soul's journey.

There's not much fun to be had with the TenHornedBeast but that's never been the point. The Lamp Of No Light is another strong release from Chris Walton aka TenHornedBeast continuing their expressive investigations and meditations on place and site-specific structures. Sinners can reflect on the hellish delights which may well come their way while other interested listeners can delight in how TenHornedBeast bring the dead to life and back again in these vast and epic compositions. The Lamp Of No Light is available in a 6-panel digipak from Cold Spring and digitally from Cold Spring bandcamp