There ought to be a warning label on this CD: “Seriously Spooky Shit.” If descents into shrilling, demon-haunted madness unnerve you; if eviscerated maidens, their entrails spread wide open upon the table of reason, offend you; and if golden rivers staining the coast blood red and setting men’s cracked bones to humming give you pause, then do not enter here. But if you find yourself longing to taste the vampire’s kiss or be the lovely witch’s willing slave, to feel the spirit of darkness writhing slowly and sensually deep within you, then step out of the straitjacket of your innocent soul and discover the shining blackness of Unto Ashes.
Saturn Return is Unto Ashes’ second album with Projekt, and as you can probably tell from the above, it more than measures up to their first, Moon”>www.ink19.com/issues/february2001/wetInk/musicTZ/untoAshes.html”>Moon Oppose Moon. Unto Ashes has much more in common with European than American goth bands, especially those affiliated with the World Serpent label, such as the venerable Current 93. For one thing, Unto Ashes sings lyrics in other languages than English — on Saturn Return there’s a song each in French, German, and Italian. And of course, there are the many references to occult and esoteric knowledge of various sorts, and to pagan spirituality. They also share with European goth bands a fascination with the words, music, and cultures of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
But you don’t need to know any of that to be blown away by their music — the gorgeous, operatic female vocals, hypnotic percussion rhythms, and suffocating synth atmospheres. Every track here shines with its own dark brilliance, from their cover of Coil’s twisted tale of the bloody renewal of the world on “Ostia” to their terrifying, Bacchanalian (Saturnalian?) setting of Aleister Crowley’s poem “A Hymn to Pan.” “Serve Me” casts a spell on you from the very first hollow thumps of the tabla and enveloping notes of the brooding synths, ensnaring you with a witch’s blood-red fingernails raking your back as you service the needs of her body and the thirsts of her soul. “Glass” pairs gentle, harpsichord-like keyboards with fragile, breathy female vocals, slowly descending deeper and deeper into its tale of love and murder as warped carnival music and heavy, throbbing synths fill your head with whispering, maddening voices. And like all their instrumentals, the closing “Witches Ruin” was just amazing, with deep-space synth isolating you in the endless void, the wind of the abyss whistling all around you, and a droning cello marking the last, fading notes tying you to the world of the living.