Grand Celestial Nightmare

Album Title: 
Forbidden Knowledge And Ancient Wisdom
Release Date: 
Monday, March 1, 2021
Review Type: 

I will keep my introduction short, for Grand Celestial Nightmare is one of the 665 outfits that include the Dutch multi-faceted musician Maurice ‘Mories’ De Jong. You might know him as well from acts like Gnaw Their Tongues, The Sombre, Aderlating, Pyriphlegethon, Cloak Of Altering, Coffin Lurker and tens of others. For several of his projects (some which I did not mention here) I wrote a review (or several ones) in the past, but I won’t add all links below.

Anyway, this project is one that he started six years ago or so. In 2016 there was a first album, called The Void Of Death (initially independently released yet re-released in the meantime in physical formats, i.e. tape and vinyl), and at the very end of 2020, New Era Productions came up with a three-track EP, Drink From The Chalice With Nightly Lust. Almost one year ago, a second full-length got finished, which does include the compositions from that EP. Once again the Dutch label New Era Productions will take care of the cassette edition (limited, evidently; but repressed in the meantime, if I am not mistaken), as well as the vinyl one (besides a digital format) and an edition on compact-disc.

Forbidden Knowledge And Ancient Wisdom lasts for forty minutes (eight titles) and was written, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by the master behind this project himself. It comes (like usual) with great cover artwork (Gustave Doré?) and is sort of divided into two parts: Forbidden Knowledge and, indeed, Ancient Wisdom. And once again it does show one of the many faces by Mijnheer Mories. Grand Celestial Nightmare has nothing (at all) to do with Noise, Dungeon Synth or Satanic Black Metal or so; this stuff finds its sources of inspiration rather in regions of Gothic / Doom-Death / Black Metal with a wink and a blink to the earlier Nineties.

What this project stands for is an atmospheric and esoteric, yet also energetic and powerful combination of melody, heaviness and darkness. The whole has a catchy approach for sure, yet certainly not of the pathetically infantile kind. The catchiness refers to both the sound quality as well as the song structures. When talking about the production, well, this one is quite clean and decent. Hey, I did not say that the result sounds clinically over-produced, for it does have – and I am glad about that – a rusty, abraded, somewhat cacophonous undertone for sure. Not cheesy, yet still well-polished with razor-wired elegance. Besides, the mixture is cool, i.e. that every instrument has a very same importance in the final result, yet it maintains a filthy element to avoid surgical exaggeration.

The tracks are pretty fast, balancing in between mid-tempo to intense, with inclusion of several eruptional blasts as well as a few doomed-up decelerations.  That goes for about every title on the album, even-though some have a fiercer character, while others dwell in spheres of gothic-ceremonial elegance. The compositions are constructed around magisterial melodies, sometimes tremolo-led, then again rather acting like a well of sound; yet always keeping the melodious basics as pillar. Another important thing that sort of carries all pieces are the vocals: sharp and blackened throat-spitting with a recognizable color and pronunciation. All this gets strongly supported by a grandiose rhythm section, some additional vocal lines (spoken words), many synths, fine solos and even violin-led excerpts. I come back to a few of these things. That supportive, often megalithic rhythm section is simply necessary to focus on the intensity of this project’s concept. The rhythm and bass guitars sort of weave an indestructible web where any try-to-escape seems futile. It’s like a snow-avalanche you can’t escape from, yet which eventually results in an all-destructive yet beautiful landscape. In combination with the well-balanced mix, the manifest presence of those four- and six-stringed is a surplus to define Grand Celestial Nightmare’s raison d’être. The whole percussion section too is of undeniable importance, for the drums do accompany each fragment in a mostly grateful way: devastating when needed, the again rather integer or uplifting, and so on. At least as important to define the core of this act are the synth-lines. The whole album gets supported by keyboards, determining the cardinal essence. Most of the time, the synths are colorizing the main / lead instrumentation (guitar melodies & leads + voices), but even then, even modestly underestimated at first, they do put their mark on the character of all songs. Once in a while, these keyboard take over the main role too. Besides, these keyboards make several parts turn into grotesque (in a positive sense, not meant as some fake melo-theatrical happening), somewhat symphonic orchestrations, fortifying the dramatic core.

Recommended if you can appreciate the Greek scene from about twenty-five / thirty years ago (you know, the Varathron / Necromantia / Septicflesh / Rotting Christ / Thou Art Lord supremacy), as well as acts like Blut Aus Nord and Emperor (damn yeah, why not), Odium, Obsidian Gate, Vintersemestre or Hecate Enthroned!