Cults are fascinating. We often hear about the disastrous results of the more famed movements such as the Peoples Temple (Jonestown) or Heaven’s Gate, or the bizarre “successes” of Scientology or Mormonism in weaving their way into the public lexicon. Groups like the Hellfire Club or the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn have near-mythical status regarding their impact on figures such as Benjamin Franklin or Aleister Crowley (respectively), while cults like the Order Of The Solar Temple or Aum Shinrikyo horrifically impacted the human psyche in the mid-nineties with suicides and mass murder (also respectively). The throughline between most cults is that they start off relatively harmless—they generally begin with a small twist on an established belief system, be it a reinterpretation of existing texts or an introduction of new thought that builds upon what was already accepted—or, at the very least, they follow the framework of established religions (looking at you, Scientology).
Golden Light seems to operate outside of the circle mentality, and, at least as far as I can ascertain from the song / album titles, aren’t affiliated with any major esoteric cult. Yet their debut, Sacred Colour Of The Source Of Light, still evokes at least enough of a draw to an esoterically new-age twist on black metal to warrant two paragraphs of rambling about cults and black metal. The blame here can mostly rest on the psychedelic overtones of the album—the LSD fueled spirituality of the Children Of The New Dawn from Mandy comes to mind: hippie-esque New Age philosophy compounded by hallucinogens atop a cold, murderous psyche, or in this case, a biting, Paysage d’Hiver-style wall of distortion present from the first second of the album.
The warm, cleaner tones that elevate opener “Sceptre Of Solar Idolatry” accentuate the hazy downbeats of the near-indecipherable wash of the distorted guitar. These simple melodies provide an anchor amongst the swirling chaos—a small beam of light to hang onto in the darkness created by distant, indecipherable vocals that wail like the speaking of tongues, with their power being more in the emotion behind them than the actual words themselves that are uttered. While from the vantage point of the cleaner melodies, the swirling chaos may seem like a frantic background noise, but peer a bit deeper into the darkness and variation will reveal itself: the songs still contain structure beyond their deceptive hypnotic repetitiveness.
While it’s typical of the drums in this style of black metal to remain content with becoming a percussive pulse of blasts, there’s an intent behind Golden Light’s wash of snare-bass-cymbal barrage. Well-placed fills add flavor and accentuate key breaks in the melodies, as well as providing a spot to come to the surface for a breath of air after a long passage. The bridge on “The Western Gate” drives this point home, alternating between sharp crescendo rolls on the snare and descending tom fills that, without an active listen, get lost in the storm.
By the time the eponymous closing track “Sacred Colour Of The Source Of Light” begins, it’s abundantly clear that Golden Light isn’t looking for much variation in their formula, but that’s to be expected from this style of black metal. It’s all about atmosphere and getting lost in the repetitiveness and letting it sink into the subconscious. “Sacred Colour” drives it on home, with its overlaying melody casting the brilliance of revelation that’s a somewhat melancholy beacon of hope over the harsh onslaught beneath the surface. Golden Light draw their power from layering, and the way it’s wrapped up in the closer is nothing short of the sonic equivalent of beautiful tapestries across cold stone walls. It doesn’t just sound esoteric or spit cult propaganda over simplistic riffs, it feels like an esoteric and spiritual reimagining of black metal. Sure, it’s not the first time it’s been done, but the true passion is behind the music here.
The greatest draw of a cult, in some form or fashion, is a sense of belonging. A feeling that others see the world in the same twisted way as the initiate. Golden Light make small tweaks to the wash-of-sound black metal formula to create something new yet familiar—a light twist on a time-tested concoction that make Sacred Colour feel fresh and new and full of promise. Will it all end in untimely death? Probably not. But for a brief thirty-three minutes, Golden Light can transcend this world and help its initiates leave it behind.
Let go and embrace the feeling behind Sacred Colour—don’t look too deep or try to make sense of it, just allow it to happen and it becomes an extremely rewarding listen.