Since their public unveiling in 2016 with the hideous & haunting Burial Ground Trance demo, Finland’s Celestial Grave have been steadily perfecting a craft that already arrived fully formed. While the band’s brand of black metal does bear some semblance to certain sectors of their native land’s long-running and -esteemed scene, Celestial Grave largely unshackle themselves from “Finnish black metal” and locate a muse that’s uniquely focused and fiercely personal. Such was the case with the epic four-song Secular Flesh debut album in 2019, and now, three years later, that case is even stronger with their second album, Vitriolic Atonement.
“Vitriolic Atonement is a sonic and visual exploration of the dreadful yet beautiful aspects of life and death,” they begin. “It was a comprehensive work for us, where not only the music and lyrics but also the artwork were really central from the start.”
Indeed, lose thyself in the hypnotic layers of that cover art and you’ll begin to understand the experience that awaits within Vitriolic Atonement. In a most disarming fashion, Celestial Grave here sound both bolder and more brittle – robust lead lines painting melancholy and might in equal measure, the execution seemingly more scattered and strident, the songwriting tending toward the anthemic yet upended by haunting twists of texture – whilst not losing that mesmerizing personality that made its predecessors so compelling. As such, Vitriolic Atonement is a full-album experience that’s paradoxically more approachable and more alien: allow that wounded melodicism into your soul, all enticingly come-hither, and then witness the swirlingly obsidian rot spread.
“Vitriolic Atonement goes through different sacraments and rites,” they conclude. “Inhale and take in the aspects of darkness, death, and the beyond that are in reach on this mortal plane. Give in, admire its beauty, and come to terms with it. Prepare for the inevitable, because the beyond will be something no mind nor soul can fully comprehend.”