This is the second release that was given to me by the very wonderful label Realm and Ritual. Today we have the fourth release from Croatian artist Gatewatcher, who also lends their talents to the projects Lone Adventurer and Ashen Chalice. Gatewatcher as a project is entirely dedicated to the lore of Magic’s the Gathering with each release centered or inspired by some aspect of the ongoing story. Memories Lost and Planes Forgotten is inspired by the moments when Jace Beleran wakes up on the plane of Ixalan following the epic antics of the Hour of Devastation and defeat by Nichol Bolas, God Pharoah. Magic The Gathering lore is silly and more resembles a superhero comics than high fantasy. Ixalan, as a story was intended to be a breather, and possibly lighthearted pause in the story, with Jace on a meso ameircan inspired plane and specifically on an island with Vampires, Dinosaurs, and Pirates. Even though Magic’s lore isn’t the most celebrated aspect of the trading card game, and in fact its story has been panned in recent years due to quality and censorship, the narratives still inpire people to create works around it. Enter Gatewatcher and the series of records that take Magic’s lore and creates minimal synthscapes based around its ideas. Memories Lost and Planes Forgotten approaches the themes of amnesia and defeat with sparse tracks that are only punctuated by funerary melodies. Drone and space occupy this world as if the artist ponders and toils all alone with only fading memories as a companion. This is not what I initially thought when immersed int he world of Ixalan but with songs like “Rest, Mind Sculptor” and “Simlmot’s Crossing” we are given a ponderous study on the character and are possibly pushed to refine interpretations of settings that originally had Vampires, Dinosaurs, and Pirates.
Ashen Chalice perhaps has the trifecta of cool titles which hover around the newest release. First off all the project name is super cool. Second of all the album title is entrancing in its wording. Third and perhaps most important is the Bandcamp tagline of “May Nature Guide You On Your Path Towards Self Destruction.” With all of these in place, Ashen Chalice dives into the sometimes uneven world of raw bedroom black metal.
Ashen Chalice is more like a journey than a destination. Finding a Croatian black noise project that isn’t even listed on the Metal Archives is sometimes as exciting as listening to whatever was put to proverbial tape. The aesthetic of Ritual Under The Blackened Moon toes the line between dead serious and tongue in cheek humor. The tape design is there as well as the black metal tropes. If it was not for the effectiveness of the three songs, I would have moved on by now.