Review: Celestial Season ‘The Secret Teachings’
The Netherlands, has never been an epicentre of traditional doom metal, however their almost drowned landscape, limitless lowland swamps and great artworks by old masters, inspired to spawn a small, but very active scene at end of the eighties. They were attracted to the more extreme metal variants, which took the path of death, doom and dismay, but with a gravitational pull towards gothic, rock and even progressive rock, helping to change the landscape by breaking boundaries with experimentations.
Celestial Season is such a boundary breaker as their gravitational pull swindles from doom and death as well as stoner territory. Also, in terms of experimentation, these Dutch romantics incorporated violin, cello and did it so masterfully that the whole new essence they brought, combined with signature grooves, form an atmosphere which not only earns the meaning of the word ‘heavy’ but also transcends into deep emotion – the true sense of doom. Never forgotten and now revered as genre classics, their debut full-length Forever Scarlet Passion (1993), the split Fire in the Winter / Above Azure Oceans (1994), with lost doom compatriots Lords Of The Stone, and sophomore Solar Lovers (1995), behold that fascinating experimentation and engrossing sound from the very beginning of the second wave of doom, that literally can be described as a sweet bitterness where grief-stricken moments are mixed with persisting doom.
However, from 1995 till 2019, 25 years, Celestial Season felt that gravitational pull sway away from their doom creations and ventured to more psychedelic and stoner territory – to the dismay of most of their dedicated followers. And, with a considerable number of demos, EP, singles and full-lengths, this era could easily be another deep diving experience for any open-minded follower.
But after a long wait, their roots called them back and like an apparition, re-appeared with a mix of Forever Scarlet Passion and Solar Lovers members, re-grouping to create, what they label as, the ‘Doom Era’ line up; with Stefan Ruiters back on vocals, Lucas van Slegtenhorst on bass, Olly Smit and Pim van Zanen on guitars, Jason Köhnen on drums, Jiska Ter Bals back on violin and Elianne Anemaat on cello. No doubt, Celestial Season answered the call strongly and with intent, as they came up with the idea to make their old style new again – to breathe life into it with their, sixth full-length offering The Secret Teaching.
Like something coming out of a hollowed, yet clandestine cave, an echoing initiation begins The Secret Teachings Of All Ages. A close to a nine-minute opus, thoughtfully constructed as the entry point, where intricately placed interludes make way for a cauldron of doom passages, spearheaded by tormented (or prophetic!) deep howls, yet the almost transcendental sounding violin and cello keeps floating upwards and lost inwards with the enticing and engrossing guitar work. This almost audacious opening track will remind followers of their great past, and also elate them with the way these veterans resurrected their ‘Doom Era’.
From a personal experience with having read The Secret Teachings Of All Ages by Manly P. Hall – the magnum opus that dives deep into realms of alchemy, ceremonial magic, ancient philosophy, mystery religions, and the mysteries teaching’s by ancient emissaries; led me to draw a parallel, where each of the thirteen tracks, conceptually served as individual chapters to explore this record.
intricately placed interludes make way for a cauldron of doom passages, spearheaded by tormented (or prophetic!) deep howls…
This is manifested on The Ouroborious, like a call from the ancient past casting the spell of slower doom, where Jiskater Bals, with her baroque violin that leans more toward Bach, than say Niccolò Paganini or Giuseppe Tartini, and an almost daunting, yet rebel deliverance on cello by Elianne Anemaat, who might be a disciple of the great Jacqueline du Pré – crafted an enticing unification, that showed magic and splendour.
Those traditional double bass drum pieces and weird transitions aided by eerie and melancholic moods created by the violin and cello, delves towards the instrumental Dolores and further enchants into Long Forlorn Tears, where the guitar and violin duel to represent the enduring hopelessness. Whereas Amor Fati, may give a healing session, where you’ll contemplate everything in life, including utmost suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary. Then the unexpected appearance of White Lotus Day, another instrumental, where its highly alluring bass sound shaped by cello and bellowing of violin, helps to be transported into other dimensions and thus envisioning something awe-inspiring! Or, may be its a traditional ritual to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky! Either way, the instrumental could easily work as a medium.
We’re now at the halfway mark of the journey, and after tasting the cathartic Salt Of The Earth, you may feel relieved and subconsciously look back at the thought-provoking album artwork and wonder why they’ve distinguished themselves from the regular themes of skulls, blood and graves? But as soon as the track They Saw It Come From The Sky appears, this may help decipher its meaning, which may hold keys to the ancient wisdom and secret knowledge that human kind is enormously blessed to receive, and Celestial Season just paid a humble reminder and a sonic offering with craftsmanship articulated in each instrument.
With that, it possibly became one of their pillar stone tracks, in their voyage to bring back the ‘Doom Era’. And also Lunar Child with haunting yet devastating doomy passages, crushing drum work and transitions that come together by the fiendish and whispering utterances made by Stefan Ruiters.
At this point, almost fifty minutes have passed like a transitory wind, partly down to the production providing a compelling atmosphere, giving freshness to the overall sound, which is further allured on the third instrumental Beneath The Temple Mount, the profoundly moody A Veil Of Silence and concluding with immensely mysterious Red Water.
On this hour-long musical journey, the listener will wonder what secret teachings are woven into the album, keeping them returning with a quest to find the mysteries left by the ancients. Like their great emissaries, on this record, Celestial Season have interpreted earth’s ancient past through modern eyes with The Secret Teachings, their first full-length in two decades, and will be released on 23rd October through Burning World Records.
Label: Burning World Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Randolph Whateley