Title: Secret Ambrosian Fire
Release Date: 13 December 2019
Format reviewed: Digital Promo
This week I unknowingly embarked on what would be a long, fascinating, and dark journey, rich with mysticism and old world knowledge. I certainly don’t feel that I was adequately prepared as I plunged deep into the diverse and unconventional soundscapes of MOSAIC. What MOSAIC presents is unique, complex and difficult to categorise. They describe their aural offerings as “supreme Thuringian folklore”, however if I had to put a more universal label on their musical stylings, I would say that they include elements of dark folk, ambient, avantgarde, and black metal.
MOSAIC was formed fifteen years ago by band mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Martin van Valkenstijn, in the German state of Thuringia, an area dubbed ‘das grüne Herz Deutschlands’ (the green heart of Germany). Since formation, MOSAIC have released a steady output of EPs and splits with other bands, however “Secret Ambrosian Fire” is the first full-length album. Van Valkenstijn enlisted a slew of guest musicians to contribute to the project including members from various bands such as Werian, Infaust, Grift, Nihil Nihil, and Wolfhetan to name just a few.
According to a series of posts on the band’s Facebook page, the concept behind the debut is based on the tria principia, otherwise known as the three primes of alchemy (being sulphur, mercury, and salt). Subsequently, the album’s nine tracks have been grouped into threes to represent each of these three primes, with tracks one to three symbolising sulphur, tracks four to six mercury, and tracks seven to nine the salt. Themes from Thuringian folklore permeate throughout, and are beautifully complimented by the use of traditional instruments, field recordings, spoken verse, ritual-styled drumming, and chanting incantations. There is true eerieness and paradoxy woven into the album and which is present right from the opening moments of track one. “Am Teufelsacker” begins with the delighted squeals of a child, followed by a soulful, yet detached male vocal, almost speaking the verses (in German), with a backing of orderly marching drums.
There are also many intimate and organic moments to be found, as demonstrated in “Wetterdistel” and “Im Kohlensud”, which feel so authentic and honest that they evoke images and feelings of stumbling upon a pagan ritual in an isolated woodland. These moments can be both captivating and unnerving, like you are a voyeur witnessing something deeply ritualistic that you do not comprehend. However, these slow, hypnotic moments are punctuated by fierce, cold, and unrelenting raw black metal, displayed beautifully by the tracks “Cloven fires” and “The Devil’s Place”. Honestly, I struggle to express just how exquisite those black metal moments are and these two tracks are obvious stand-outs for me.
The soundscapes throughout this album are impeccable, if also wildly diverse, and at times quite unorthodox. Therefore I can imagine that “Secret Ambrosian Fire” could be a challenge for some listeners, but I personally cannot recommend it highly enough. This album taps into something primal and if you allow it, has the power to embrace your soul, separate it from your body and lead you through the dark, dense forests of Thuringia, which has been waiting to reveal it’s secrets to you. 9/10 Proua Metallist
9/10 Immortal Classic
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