The imagery that surrounds the depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) subgenre is palpable and potent. Album art and band photos are washed of all colour, dead trees stand naked and frail, landscapes are barren, scorched and enshrouded in fog. This reflects the psychological landscape of the subgenre, painting a world that’s marked by a great vagueness and defined by neglect and abandonment. A depressed mind inhabits a similar place, one that’s muddied, hollow and stripped of colour and meaning.
As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes’ cover art seems to share this mindset, yet like An Autumn For Crippled Children as a whole, there’s far greater depths to be uncovered. The drab, snowy cover is as washed out and cold as other covers in the DSBM genre, yet there’s a texture and grain to it that’s richer and more nuanced than the flat simplicity of genre benchmarks such as ColdWorld’s Melancholie² and Krohm’s The Haunting Presence. It’s literally deeper, half in focus and half out, similar to the abstruse mode that An Autumn For Crippled Children’s music operates in. They might appear cold and barren on the surface, but layers of deeper feeling and more complex emotions are soon revealed.
Of course, this is still a deeply melancholic album. However, its emotional tenor is considerably more varied than that of most DSBM. Its generic region is in fact best described as 50% DSBM and 50% blackgaze. It strips DSBM of its most ugly and bleak qualities, but keeps the forlorn, hazy atmospherics. It likewise removes the more grandiose, technically ambitious aspects of blackgaze, but keeps the melodies and transcendent tone. It’s rarely harrowing, however it is consistently heart-wrenching. ‘Melancholia’s opening guitars dance and chime, ‘Of Your Light’ builds to a devastating climax and ‘Hearts Closed’ is as frantic and heartbreaking as a near-death experience.
But what really sets As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes apart from most of its DSBM/blackgaze peers its short, sharp and linear songcraft. No track runs longer than four and a half minutes, and each possesses a kinetic sense of rhythmic thrust. The openings of the title track and ‘In Winter’ are the only moments that lack this razor sharp propulsion, the rest are as direct and pointed as a shot of adrenaline to the heart. The least black metal moments (‘Carefully Breathing’, ‘Of Your Light’) even border on the dark post-punk of Lifelover, with hints of krautrock’s motorik momentum. This gives As The Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes a sense of escape, as if emulating the moment you hit rock bottom and begin the ascent back to the surface. It’s still a fraught, cold place, but one with an eye on the light shining down from above.