Words by Alasdair Belling
The French always seem to exude a certain ‘class’ when they do anything, whether it is food, romance, or the arts. In the latter sense, the land of Cheese boasts a rich history when it comes to heavy music, with notable contemporary acts like Alcest, Deathspell Omega, and of course a little outfit called Gojira. Such a rich and diverse range of influence is sure to inspire bands of all levels to aspire to things a bit more challenging, conceptual and generally ambitious- three adjectives that coincidently can be used to sum up the latest beast from Abrahma, ‘In Time For The Last Rays of Light’.
While the title of the record might sound suspiciously like a Penguin Classic (the last record was called Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird) the music doesn’t have any fantastical charm- this is a dense, slow and bleak commentary on the troubles with mental health, processed through some cathartic moments of brutality.
Opening combo Lost Forever & Lucidly Adrift set the tone fairly accurately for this listen, with mastermind Sebastien Bismuth showing his hand early through a collection of weighty arrangements that toe the line of sludge and at times psychedelia. However, this by no means makes thing’s predictable or stale, with both tracks tastefully arranged to allow each melodic passage to shine, and each riff to exist within its own, purposeful space.
The two-part epic Eclipse Of The Sane makes up the body of this LP, split between the centre of the record and the penultimate track, and it’s within here that the conceptual basis of the record seems to take full flight. Combining one hell of an ode to High On Fire riff with desperate, anxiety-ridden lyrics, part 1 feels like a slow journey of self- acceptance, before part 2 offers the cathartic release to bring thing’s thundering home for this odyssey.
In an age where streaming is the ruler of the roost in music it feels wrong to acknowledge the artwork that the band have provided to accompany this LP, but the stunning mural depicted, being a 19th century work by French artist Gustav Dore, captures an atmosphere around the music that admittedly helped this listener gain a greater sense of understanding around the music. Titled Birds and Fishes, picturing the scene of animal creation from the book of Genesis, one gains a sense of recreation out of the chaos of uncertainty and illness. LP cuts Wander In Sedation and heavyweight winner Last Epistle certainly channel this feeling, with Bismuth’s Bowie-esque vocals sitting like a rare ray of light above the churning, grim waters below.
There Bears The Fruit Of Deceit closes things out in a more reflective manner, and it feels like a sensitive touch after such an emotional release. ‘I’ll keep this question till the end, why have you forsaken?’, asks Bismuth, in a powerful recognition of the seemingly in-answerable question of suffering, one which the Biblical authors that so inspired Dore couldn’t even answer. Ironically, this track is one of the only times harsh vocals are offered on this disc, but it feels restrained, like a desperate last statement designed for reflection, rather than attack.
Things certainly don’t end on a happy note here, but when taken as a whole, it seems that ‘In Time For The Last Rays Of Light’ is an exercise of existing with pain, and recognising when, occasionally, hope does break through the clouds. Like an excerpt from Michel Foucault’s landmark work Madness & Civilization, ‘In Time For The Last Rays Of Light’ takes its time, and is the sound of the searching soul walking to the edge of the cliff and staring over the edge. Regardless of what they find though, it doesn’t change the beauty that still exists in the world – beauty that this record so aptly captures.
In Time For The Last Rays of Light is out now. Support the band and purchase your copy through Small Stone Records.