Features / Releases

Most High Place: A Pregnant Light… the story so far

Maintaining anonymity in black metal is getting harder and harder, and this whole internet lark certainly doesn’t help, but it isn’t stopping certain individuals doing their best to maintain the shroud of the unknown. There was always a charm about bands (and in this case one man projects) that could keep a veil over much of their identities, allowing their music and ethos to speak entirely for itself. So in 2012, the fact that some reclusive musicians have managed to maintain that mysticism truly is remarkable. One such case is A Pregnant Light and remarkable is really the only word to describe its music.

However, all things come to an end, and it never could last; and after a spate of releases, the man known as “Master” on some releases and “DM” on others has a face and his presence too has been linked with similar BM projects This Station of Life, who released the rather excellent Plastic Fire album earlier in 2012, and Aksumite. Born only last year, A Pregnant Light is Master’s musical centrepiece and 2011’s full-length album The Feast of Clipped Wings lays as evidence of the man’s abilities. Undeniably black metal in its approach, the sheer ferocity of A Pregnant Light is one also ridden with an avoidably punk and crust inflection as well as a dose of eerie and spectral melody within each track. This is an aesthetic that is rather common in the tapes released by Colloquial Sound Recordings, the label who’ve put out all of A Pregnant Light’s tapes, as well as those from This Station of Life, Aksumite and Dressed In Streams.

The Feast of Clipped Wings is a short effort, another common feature in CSR tapes, but is a primal and visceral listen as chaotic riffs, punky drum beats and totally indecipherable yells from a bottomless pit, drenched in reverb, present themselves as vocals. As a result, A Pregnant Light’s lyrical content remains in the dark too with unclear meaning and purpose portrayed by the song titles and equally so, each tape’s artwork is wondrously (and sometimes head scratchingly) abstract.

‘Under Consult of the Dragon’ from The Feast of Clipped Wings

Followed by a split with Sados entitled The Sky Conspired Against Thee Before Thy Bones Had Dried, which featured the sublime, but inescapably forlorn, 10 minute song ‘Draining Fragrance’, 2011 ended on a relative high for this project but 2012 has seen a remarkable rise in prolificacy from A Pregnant Light (and Master’s various other endeavours along with it), releasing one split (with Obscure Lupine Quietus) and four EPs.

‘Draining Fragrance’ from  The Sky Conspired Against Thee Before Thy Bones Had Dried

Two very different tracks make up the APL side of the split with Cornwall black metallers Obscure Lupine Quietus. ‘Burning Basin’ is a familiar barrage of noisy guitars and vocals but its accompaniment in the 12 minute ‘On A Banquet Table’ is where Master begins to play with more melody and the song, overall, moves at a much more methodical, and with it – engrossing, pace.

Live To Tell

The Live To Tell EP marked the next in the series of important style shifts and meanderings that A Pregnant Light would undertake. Firstly, it’s not an entirely solo effort but more on that in a moment, and secondly, song lengths and structures really started to expand – consisting of three tracks, one of which is a cover.

‘Panoramic Stroke’ is a hazy intro track, laden with beautiful ambient guitar washes met by the somewhat familiar discordance of ‘Possession of Diamond’, which quickly begins to flourish with some more direct and candid melody than before. The vocals still sound sinister and sometimes utterly wretched but a great emphasis is placed on the towering guitars, and effectively so, dancing between slow and rapid passages with ease. The cleaner moments really start to shine here and A Pregnant Light then move into a daring cover version of Madonna’s ‘Live To Tell’. Guest vocalists in the form of Sigrid Sheie from Hammers of Misfortune and Amber Asylum’s Kris Force (two rather notable additions to say the very least) rule the song with their serpentine croons colliding with misty guitars for an altogether haunted vibe. It’s one of those covers that shouldn’t work but it just does. The full EP is streaming on CVLT Nation HERE.

Death My Hanging Doorway is the one track EP next to be released (streaming HERE on CVLT Nation also). One song… 21 minutes long. This is where A Pregnant Light truly breaks through with something magical. Consciously less black metal than before but no less mesmerising, ‘Death My Hanging Doorway’ firsts opens with a meandering eerie passage before throwing caution to the wind with a trembling wall of guitars, really characterised by that jangly guitar tone. There’s a clearer production on this piece but anything but sleek or glossy. The vocals are still hellish yells from the abyss and after this number of releases so far; it’s become rather easy to recognise Master straight away. 

Death My Hanging Doorway

However, ‘Death My Hanging Doorway’ is a track dominated by a myriad riffs that are simply crushing but equally haunting, poignant, and crucially… totally unforgettable, like the titanic riff that kicks in just before the 3.30 mark, introducing an aberrant hail of discordant guitars and passages that clock in one after the other. And we haven’t even hit the ten minute point yet.

Soon, A Pregnant Light recoil into a quiet calm with acoustic guitars taking centre stage and gentle ambient electric guitar flourishes swanning in and out, almost akin to Alcest’s most sombre and ghostly moments, before slowly starting to uncoil only to erupt again with a punky stomp, sprinting for the end, and the original riffs that first opened the affair return viciously, to suitably (and dramatically) bookend the song.

Conjuring a staggering emotive spectrum to get lost in, Death My Hanging Doorway is emblematic of APL as an entity. It’s haunting and, due to the vocals, sounds agonised but equally so there’s a vibrant and uplifting nature to A Pregnant Light also, a spectral quality that only makes its presence felt after immersing oneself in its world for extended listens.

In the last few months, A Pregnant Light has unleashed two new tapes in October and earlier this month – St. Emaciation and Most High Place, again of course released by Colloquial Sound Recordings, and unfortunately they have yet to grace these ears. A sample excerpt of ‘Fertility Cult’ from St. Emaciation can be heard below however.

The snippet of ‘Fertility Cult’ suggests another shift in style, though as always it’s tenuous. The excerpt first alights with lush snaking guitar, summoning a slightly post-whatever like vibe, and the vocals are buried even deeper in the mix than usual. There’s nothing black metal about this track, and now where A Pregnant Light is going next is anyone’s guess. I, for one, wait with bated breath.

 Excerpt of ‘Fertility Cult’ from St. Emaciation

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