By Only Death Is Real

Release year: 2022
Label: Slaughter In Art
Consisting of musicians involved in projects such as Allerseelen and Camerata Mediolanense, and released by cult label Slaughter In Art – in fact the label’s first release in years and years! – you know here’s a project worth taking note of.
According to the promo text of the label, on their first release Caverna Delle Rose stand somewhere between research and reinterpretation. Elysian Chants is an album of ancient hymns, seeking to bridge the gap of millennia to create a whole that is both spiritually authentic and relevant to contemporary man. In other words, it strives to embody in the truest sense eternal Tradition: not as a nostalgic throwback or spiritually empty conservatism, but as a force that reaches from antiquity to guide us today.
Musically, Elysian Chants is a hard album to pinpoint. Almost inevitably the word neofolk will be put forward, considering the other projects of the members and the concept. And whilst I’m happy enough to accede that it’s an apt descriptor in the sense that most likely fans of neofolk will harbor interest towards Caverna Delle Rose, Elysian Chants is not neofolk musically.
There are very few melodic or vocal hooks here to focus on, and virtually no strong instruments to fix attention upon. This lends a strong ambient nature to the album – as inevitably as neofolk will be mentioned in conjunction with this project, so will dark ambient. And whilst I again admit that it’s not completely off the mark insofar as target audience goes, atmospherically this certainly isn’t very close to any definition of dark ambient I’m used to.
Musically, this is evocative, haunting and beautiful; true to the project’s name, the music is drenched in rich reverb and echo, making it sound like it is coming from some vast, concealed cavern. Or echoing to us from the mists of the past. Because of this cavernous element, a lot of the vocals come across as almost non-verbal. Yes, there are lyrics to these songs, and with lyric sheet in hand you might be able to follow them if you read Greek, but nonetheless the actual words feel unimportant – the importance is in the sensations and imagery they evoke. Beautiful, ethereal female vocals and occasional male voices sing hymns to ancient gods, abetted by ritualistic drumming.
Let me try to approach this from a different perspective. Strip all the gothic drama and romantic funereal pomp from Dark Sanctuary, leaving only the neoclassical ambience, and take the most abstract, meditative pieces of Hagalaz’ Runedance but remove anything specifically nordic about it. Add strong ritualistic percussion and hymnal vocals from antiquity. Now you might have an inkling of what Caverna Delle Rose sounds like.
Elysian Chants is a beautiful, evocative album that succesfully sets out to do what it promises. When it comes to art, ultimately so-called cold, hard facts are less important than the impression a work has on those who experience it. And, for me at least, Elysian Chants genuinely feels like an amalgamation of antiquity and contemporaneity: a modern embodiment and manifestation of an ancient tradition. The possibility of a living tradition.
The ambient nature of the album means that, at least for me, Elysian Chants works best as background music. I have greatly enjoyed listening to the album whilst reading or writing – every now and then pausing to concentrate my attention on some beautiful detail rising from the music.
With their debut, Caverna Delle Rose stake a both musically and conceptually interesting claim in the large and vague landscape of post-industrial, neofolk and neoclassical music. As a return to activity from Slaughter In Art, a most worthy release.