REVIEW: The Soil Bleeds Black - "Quintessence"

By Mike Ventarola

Chain Border

QuintessenceThe Soil Bleeds Black creates a sensual realm that harkens to the variegated elements of the medieval ages. It is with full intention that listeners feel as though they have been plunged into a time capsule where the mind's eye meets the magicians, knights, maidens, and the peasants from the days of yore.

The music is very much at home with Renaissance Faire lovers, pagans, and ethereal goths who long for atmospheric music captivatingly swathed in pure medieval, folkloric fashion.

Quintessence takes us on pagan journey through the elements of earth, air, fire and water, which is then wrapped up with the title track. Rather than reach for a glossy over synthesized element that some folklore/medieval artists grasp, The Soil Bleeds Black utilizes instruments that are as close to the originals which were employed during those early days. Ultimately, this lends such an authentic feel to the disc, that one can't help but wonder if the artists are not reincarnations from this period.

Earth, delivered as an homage to Mother Earth, could have been something that the field plowers sung to the crops as they tilled the fields. It embodies the natural transitions of life and rebirth after the seasons.

Air is delicate and incorporates a vocal self-harmonization by Eugenia Houston that is simply sublime. This track helps to spring to mind a meandering stroll among the verdant castle gardens. Some darker elements are also threaded within the song via arcane church bell-like gongs and drum beats that reflect an image of a large castle door being slammed shut.

Fyre crackles like tinder wood in the hearth. This element, long used to sterilize medical equipment during the dark ages, is also viewed as a spiritual cleanser. Many cultures utilized fire on the funeral pyres in anticipation that its cleansing potency would take the soul through air and lead it heavenward.

Water, long associated as an emotional element, opens darkly, as if rising from the depths of the ocean. The tones become more forlorn because nothing is older than time and tides. Many maidens stared out from the shore of the ocean's edge awaiting the return of their seafaring lovers. Hints of sound shed an imagery of the dying who were clutched to the ocean's bosom as their ships sunk during a maelstrom. Other notes reflect the gull like calls from the waters edge, bringing the soul of the departed over to the other side of the mortal realm.

Quintessence blends all the sound elements associated with earth, air, fyre and water. It is bold and forthright in composition, plying layer upon layer of sound and texture to impregnate the mind with the ancient days and ancient ways of a forgotten people from a forgotten land. At once it is the alchemical "knowing" of harnessing the Earth's energy while standing in awe at the magnificence of its power. At one point in the track, there is a ghostly vortex of sound that plummets the listener into the realm of the magician and alchemist while the spiritual essences of these energies coalesce to do the magi's bidding. This piece strays from the medieval elements momentarily to give rise to sound that is otherworldly and somewhat foreboding to the uninitiated. Just as quickly we are back in the medieval realm where the music takes on an almost tantric rhythm. The harnessing of knowledge, power and reverence culminate to create a self-assured air of seductiveness that is purely in the moment of the macrocosmic scheme of life.

The Soil Bleeds Black is comprised of three talented and highly artistic musicians from the Bardic realm of a long forgotten place in history. They are the minstrels and visionaries of another age, sent forth through a time warp to remind us of our past as well as connect us with our future. The body of work created by this trio includes some of the most exquisite graphics to grace a CD or vinyl cover, that listening to the music while staring at the artwork, will make one want to redecorate their abode in rich tapestries and other palatial elements.

Rather than delve into mawkish sentiment, The Soil Bleeds Black paints a stunning musical portrait of all that was good and bad during the Dark Ages. Then, as today, people were concerned about life, death and love. In some ways, this music brings us to the realization about how far we have fallen away from revering nature in all her guises. Despite the simplicity of the essential elemental essences, they remain strongly embedded in our collective unconscious, waiting for us to connect with their intensity and passion to learn to harness them to bring about some semblance of enchantment in the present age.

If one wanted to feel as if they were transported through time, it is highly suggested that you turn this CD on, draw a bath and throw in some lavender flowers into the water and soak by candlelight. This may not turn you into a prince or princess, but it will impart your senses with the luxuriating essences that are the creators of all life.

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