Metal has long been embraced as a metaphor for darkness, and funeral doom may be its most effective vehicle, as its crushing heaviness and ponderous pace instantiate at once the blighting of sight, sound and serenity. But, if funeral doom is a lugubrious spectral monstrosity bent on the obliteration of light, Iter Ad Lucem finds its flesh to expose its essential humanity. Rather than play around with the mere contrast of dark and light and, hence, good and evil, Urna propose these as inseparable elements of the greater whole; the deeply enmeshed prospect of death in life.
This sub-genre is certainly far from saturated. It may actually be one of the least frequented corners of the metal world. That said, those listeners who dare to venture into these murky, musty enclaves (more than once), are very much at home here among the likes of Esoteric, Catacombs and Evoken. Urna do their doom with a blackened aesthetic but while this makes them an even rarer breed than many, they haven’t staked new claim as much as they’ve extended the boundaries of this dark dominion beyond the markers laid down by Nortt and Elysian Blaze.
As is to be expected from any respectable funeral doom record, this one is ridiculously heavy, quite often painfully slow, and fatally oppressive. One of the pitfalls of even really good funeral doom, however, is that slow and heavy can tend to sound awfully familiar, even when coming from a different direction. And, actually, Urna do sometimes come uncomfortably close to what might be called a mélange of the aforementioned bands. Where Urna leave their magic mark is in leavening the bitter melancholy with the faintest shimmering thread of light that sometimes sows hope but as often serves merely to cast a jaundiced reminding glare on the pitch of slowly enclosing walls.
Dissonant, droning, downtuned guitars and black-tongued intonation dominate the aural vista on Iter Ad Lucem’s six tracks and forty-five minutes but it is the array of incorporeal accompaniment swirling around this malignant mass that gives it its shape. Synthetic percussion heaves and pummels the acrid air in gargantuan resonant waves as eerily hollow baroque-ish keys sometimes rise to an uneasy dance with fuzzy grey ambient tendrils. But even as this imposing portent of death relentlessly advances, lurching and lunging at times with surprising agility, it can neither contain nor repress the ethereal hope spun forth by majestic leads. Like rising smoke in vague relief against the night sky, the lead melodies on Iter Ad Lucem soar undaunted above the malaise, beautiful and intangible; both absolute and elusive in their promise of sanctuary in the blackness.
Iter Ad Lucem translates loosely from Latin as, “path to light,” or perhaps, “journey to the light of day,” which implies a present blackness. Urna’s second full length album offers a delicate, heartening glow in the depths of the abyss. It is uncertain though as the album comes to its stark and unsettling close, whether the light is being slowly and inevitably engulfed.