Best known as one of the most revered and prolific artists operating primarily within the metal underground Costin Chioreanu has worked with everyone from At The Gates and Napalm Death to Ulver and Arcturus, but he also has a long history of direct involvement in music, ranging from primitive black metal to more recent collaborations with numerous hellish alumni.
A enigmatic polymath with a refined sense of atmospheres both visual and aural, Costin could be forgiven for preferring the relative anonymity of a band to something as raw, exposed and emotionally potent as this long-awaited solo compendium. Compiled to raise money to help victims of the recent tragedy at Club Colectiv in Bucharest, where a fire claimed the lives of 48 gig-goers, The Quest For A Morning Star’s intermittently soporific and sinister soundscapes and instrumental explorations suggest that a more tangible persona has emerged away from his more metallic efforts. The melancholy inherent in much of Costin’s art has always seemed to come from a sincere place, and here it finds its most evocative expression.
The Morricone-esque reverb wasteland of An Empire Beneath Oblivion is both gently cinematic and riven with unknowable magick, pitch-black amorphous swirls leaking through cracks between picked guitars, thumped drum skins and searing, soaring violin. Phantasma And The Midnight Stalker verges on John Zorn territory, with its fuzzy shadows, manipulated feedback and sepia strings conspiring to soundtrack waking nightmares. Meanwhile, Ihwaz glides and twinkles like a Cocteau Twins out-take reborn via a valium binge before mutating into a spectral necro-grind death march. Even after all those grim wonders, A Storm Shall Take The Words Away is nothing short of breath-taking; a cracked collage of skeletal hiss and hectoring drone, it recalls the weirdest moments on Swans’ Soundtracks For The Blind in the best way possible. Similarly, Outside The Circle is a fractured, drawn-out night terror in sonic form. Meanwhile, obtuse cameos from Attila Csihar, Current 93’s David Tibet, Sigh’s Mirai Kawashima and Kimmo Helen of Hexvessel provide the miasmic icing. This dark, dazzling quest is more than worth pursuing, particularly given the honorable cause that inspired it.