Review by Sonny for Labyrinthus Stellarum - Tales of the Void (2023)
Labyrinthus Stellarum are a Ukrainian three-piece from Odessa in Ukraine, who must be commended for even being able to get an album out considering the challenges they must currently be facing. They were founded by vocalist and keyboard player, Alexander Andronati along with guitarists Alexander Kostetskyi and Misha Andronati (who is a mere fifteen years old) and Tales of the Void is their debut release. I was tempted to check Labyrinthus Stellarum out after being quite struck by their track Void Dwellers which is actually the opener from Tales of the Void when it was featured in May's Academy playlist for the North.
The trio play a combination of atmospheric black metal and dungeon synth with a space theme which, admittedly, isn't the most original theme for an atmo-black outfit, but it is carried off with such beautiful arrangements that lack of originality is never an issue that leaps to mind. They don't just intersperse their black metal with some synth-laden interludes, although that does occur, they are also unafraid to incorporate the synths into the black metal sections which seems to produce a really nice, mellowing effect and actually makes Tales of the Void an incredibly relaxing album to listen to. They may have taken influence from the likes of Darkspace, particularly thematically, but their style of black metal is more laid back than Wroth's often desperate-sounding earnestness. I know I have probably made the album sound more blackgaze-y than it is, but I think fans of Deafheaven and Alcest may enjoy what these Ukrainians are delivering. The actual black metal content of Tales of the Void sounds to me more similar to Saor than to Paysage d'Hiver and when that is combined with the gently soaring synth work then it assumes a quite epic visage that is well-suited to nature-themed BM. I don't think it encapsulates the atmosphere of space as well as the top cosmic BM practitioners like Mare Cognitum and Darkspace as it feels a little too warm and earthy and doesn't really evoke the frigidity of cosmic majesty as effectively as the true masters. The synths do sometimes offer a weird, space-y dimension, such as those present on the track Cosmic Winds, but again, for me, they just as often evoke earthbound phenomena like rain or waterfalls. Of course this is my interpretation of what I am hearing and others may disagree, but I feel cosmic BM should be a little more frigid-sounding than this.
That said, this is still an exceedingly promising debut from what appears to be a young and inexperienced trio of musicians. The tracks are very well put together, the guitars are layered to wonderful effect and the synths add a nice additional dimension. Alexander Andronati has a decent shrieking vocal delivery, although his voice is buried in the mix occasionally, especially when the synths are present as they do tend to dominate. I can see this appealing to those who may not be regular black metal fans, as well as the more seasoned atmo-black veterans. No doubt the trve will take against it, but they do with anything that even hints at any production values, so there's nothing new there. A band well worth keeping an eye on as they do seem to have cracked one of the key elements of any type of music, which is the songwriting.