Sacramentum “Far Away From The Sun”

Sacramentum are heroes in the more melodic black metal style that appeared in Sweden after the initial Norwegian scene had worn itself out. Caught between the pop sensibilities of what was starting to develop in Gothenburg and the ambitious yet choppy compositions of Dissection, Sacramentum forged their own sound in that narrow gap, never stealing ideas from either side and searching inwards for inspiration. Far Away From The Sun is a particular track that shows joy and happiness while still denigrating human life. A strong understanding of the black metal melodic narrative has allowed them to reconcile such clashing emotions without showing the slightest contradiction.

Introduction:

The guitars introduce the song in unison at lightning fast speed remaining within the realm of the natural minor scale only deviating to harmonize fourths which is more dissonant than the traditional harmonization of previous generations but adds more power while not destroying the melody through bizarre intervals. After establishing itself the main motif through repetition, the guitars then deviate with one guitar maintaining the first melody but slightly more streamlined to allow enough room for the second guitar to play a majestic lead melody that twists and turns evoking distant images of the castle seen on the album cover.

Main theme: (43 or so seconds )

One guitar takes a rhythm role playing a cadenced riff of diatonic chords composed of octaves thirds and fourths that guide the lead melody in a grandiose way as both follow the same motion to maintain unity as we are being guided towards that castle. Drums follow the Burzum disco beat as distant dream like shrieks tell the tale of a man who through the power of his dreams drifts away serenely away from other lifeforms into an other world.

I travel as I sleep, funeral silence is cast over me.
As I sleep I feel the night embrace me
and I float under a black sky without stars.
I have seen the eternity,
I have seen the eons rise in my dreams.
Light of heaven is fading away, as I fly away from the sun.

Development: (1:17 approx)

Blast beats emerge in full fury as a variation the first melody reunites both guitars until the lead guitar plays a descending melody allowing the vocals to return but with slightly more vitriol. The melody is carved from the same notes as the melody that appears just before the main theme. It maintains the effect of approaching a grand castle but by being slightly different it shows progress towards an actual conclusion. The narrator sees the entropy of the world begin to control his soul but he does not fall into the trap as there is a voice that whispers for him to continue deeper.

I feel the ocean of chaos surrounding my soul
and I hear a voice speak softly: – Reach for thy goal!
Once again I feel the ocean of chaos penetrate my soul.

A riff played through a flanger with the chords from the main theme broken down into arpeggios as the drums slow down, signifies the crossing over into a dream like world that feels different from ours. The tempo is maintained but the notes are played in eighth note triplets giving the illusion of a tempo change that is fluid. The lead guitar plays a faint melody behind until both guitars unite.

Secondary theme: (2:29)

Both guitars unite to play a long stream of tremolo picked chords that oscillate between a harmonic and natural minor scale sequence. The stunning repertoire of chord shapes is on full display but Sacramentim intelligently never use more than two different notes except for an octave knowing that it will surely come across as either sounding pretentious or weak. The juggling between melody and power never ceases to amaze. The drums play fills as a powerful screech emerges announcing the end of the dream sequence and onto something much more tangible. Awoken from his deep slumber our narrator describes his perfect vision of heaven that resembles the great Swedish forest yet devoid of life and encapsulated in a dreamlike aura.

I entered a mystical grey dreamvoid
Which I had no access to.
The atmosphere were dim and cold,
Harmonic with it’s purple.
I flew through a stunning beautiful landscape
Of frozen forests.
A building began to rise far in the distant,
Where the sky meets the sea.

The melody that has continuously evoked the castle seen on the artwork returns but transposed slightly higher up and with notes changed accommodating the transposition so that the riff stays relatively in key. It’s possibly the most majestic riff in the existence of metal through it’s allusions to the major scale which is known in classical music for it’s grand yet joyous character, but the riff never fully embraces keeping it’s strength and not falling into the pitfalls of complacent happiness. It now pierces through and shows greater clarity as our hero realizes he can now see the castle and is quickly approaching it. The castle belongs to him and is not of this world, it belongs to the divine section of himself and relegates all else but the landscape into nonexistence.

In the faint horizon
A castle began to take form
Surrounded by ice mountains.
The castle of myself.
As I drifted closer I knew I was there,
In my divine dimension
That my visions had shown me for years.

Conclusion: (3:52)

A variation of the main theme returns to announce the end of this epic voyage. The castle is fully erect and the vocals continue but this time with more confidence and even a sense of relief as the narrator has achieved his objective and can fully live out the rest of his days in isolation away from the lunacy of man and his poisonous motivations. The lead guitar adds a continuous pedal note in a way a lot of hipster bands do so for the sake of having more sound but here it really emphasizes the feeling of grandeur that has come to fruition in the protagonist’s mind. Where death metal relishes the grand climax, here there is no such thing as the journey is just as important as the destination as no matter how we live, we all end up in the same place.

The vocals have gone away and the drums have slowed down. Tremolo riffs have been replaced with a singular melody played in triplets. The hero has long died and the beauty of his world is a distant echo of a land that was immune to our world’s light. The diatonic minor thirds close off this epic song while retaining the joy of an uninhabited world but this time the grandeur and joy has been replaced with entropy due to the fairly static nature of the riff.

A truly powerful song by a genre that was inundated by terrible music at the time. The melodies are simple to play and the note selection being limited compared to a lot of bands are conceptually incredibly complicated. Counterpoint and polyphony run rampant yet the cohesive whole does not suffer for it. There is rarely any repetition but this avoids the associated pitfalls of riff salads through a concise musical language and the exploitation of the melodic narrative. Never has an album come close to completely exporting the innate melodic capabilities of black metal and Sacramentum cement themselves as the undisputed leaders of this mostly asinine microgenre.

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26 thoughts on “Sacramentum “Far Away From The Sun””

  1. Charles Stuart says:

    I always like harmonizing by 4ths… it gives the music a certain majesty when played in a minor scale. They seem dangerous in the major as they quickly end up as maudlin and treacly.

    I think the Doors song “The Crystal Ship” explores some similar territory melding together pain and loss with exaltation by modulating between Gmin in the verse and Gmaj in the refrain.

    1. Jerry Hauppa says:

      They aren’t liked around these parts, but almost all of the harmony on Broken Hope’s “Loathing” record is in 4ths. It’s pretty interesting because as far as I know, the root note of a 4th is the higher note of the interval, so harmonizing this way gives an odd illusion of movement to a riff.

      1. Charles Stuart says:

        Yes sir, the 4th is an interesting beast. When you look at the 4th interval ‘upside down’ it is a perfect fifth, i.e. a power chord. If I remember correctly, this type of harmonization was considered ‘wrong’ back in the baroque period because of its inherent dissonance and had to be used very carefully. It is unfortunate that one mostly hears it only in faggy happy pop music.

  2. ass donuts says:

    This one weeds out the boys from the men. You know someone doesn’t really get the music and is just a johnny-come-late indie rocker projecting mental images of the cover art on whatever they hear when they compare this to Dissection. ‘It’s Swedish and it’s got a blue cover, must be a Dissection clone!’

  3. Fake Brett Stevens says:

    I find this album positively boring and stale. Always was. Always Will be. Aboriginal land.

  4. Quidmore says:

    Fucking great! Way more of these kinds of articles, please!

  5. Urvas Bethud says:

    Great analysis. Maybe I should add that there is some magical choices in the recording. The way Swano created this wall of sound reamains a mystery to me. I think that a lot of guitars are repeated in different octaves. There are always at least 4 different guitars and, maybe, each one is recorded with 2 microphones. But it remains a mystery. The set up sounds like : Boss MT-2 + Marshall jcm 900 + shure sm57. I won’t be surprised if a boss HM-2 is used on this record, before, after, the metal zone or on a different track. There is a great amount of reverb on the guitars and on the vocals. A lot of reverb on the toms too. Well, it is my favorite black-death album both in composition and sound.

    1. dead butt dreaming says:

      Agreed on the amazing achievement that is the mixing and mastering of this album. I also imagined that each guitar was doubled by octave and you are also probably right in guessing that 2 mics were used, possibly one against the speaker and another at some distance which creates an effect like chorus but with less obvious out-of-phase timbres

      This is also my favorite black-death album besides The Nocturnal Silence which also has a similar focus on meloduic momentum and lack of ornamentation

    2. Vatha says:

      The guitar tone is very saturated, so they certainly layered every riff with multiple takes. In the vinyl reissue for this album, they comment on the fact that they weren’t good enough at guitar to play the riffs they wanted, leading to the use of layering single lines of guitar melody rather than say tremolo-picking thirds on two strings as many BM artists are wont to do. I think this not only contributes to the richness of this record’s guitar sound, but also its more interesting use of counterpoint than most bands (including Sacramentum after this album) would attempt, as multi tracked guitar parts allow for completely independent lines of melody not bound by the limitations of the guitarist or the instrument itself. Swano is known to use the AKG 414, perhaps he applied that to the guitars as well. I too wish to better understand how they achieved such a wondrous sound.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        But ‘we’ do still maintain that this cannot possibly have been some people experimenting in order to overcome both their lack of knowledge and ability?

        NB: This would then be a mark of talent, not of shame.

        1. Necronomeconomist says:

          Why the fuck would we ‘still maintain’ that?

          1. Rainer Weikusat says:

            See some articles below about Emperor’s “mysteriously fading” “deep understanding of classical music theory”.

            IMHO, that’s not so much “deep understanding” but (somewhat accidental) experimental rediscovery of parts of it, with experiments born out of necessity. As the necessity faded, the music became simpler and more conforming to ‘market expectations’ aka ‘fan tastes’. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: While I consider present-day Mayhem a horrible band, they’ve doubtlessly enriched the lifes of much more people than the Euronymous/ Dead/ Hellhammer/ Necrobutcher outfit ever could.

            Not entirely random black metal link:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buDVLTNuDhg

            I meant to put this somewhere here because it’s a studio rehearsal/ live recording, pretty much the exact opposite of this elaborate bricolage. Probably doesn’t lend itself to so many beautiful words, though.

  6. good friday so far says:

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to put together this article. These analysis articles are like a music appreciation course. An excellent piece of black metal was selected this time as well.

  7. David Rosales says:

    Bravo! More of this!

  8. Eternal Turd says:

    Loved it, these are the articles that keep me a loyal subscriber to this place… Such a strange juxtaposition having this great piece of writing next to Brock’s constant drivel. Anywho, keep up they great work.

  9. NWN War Metal Tranny Rapist says:

    This might get some balls quaking, but Dissection is shemale music!

  10. Flying Kites says:

    My Swedish Melodic Metal sensibilities are non-existent. Oh well, back to Ildjarn I guess.

    1. Nothing wrong with Ildjarn.

  11. Svmmoned says:

    Great. But could you also provide some small examples/explanations in a form of tablatures for the profane part of the readers?

    1. Nicholas Vahdias says:

      I have thought about it but considering the number of parts there is to a death/black song, it would take a lot of time to tab out these songs perfectly. Look at how bad most online tabs are.

      1. Jerry Hauppa says:

        I don’t have a whole lot of time for a whole song, but if you had riffs in it you wanted tabs of I could probably find the time.

        1. Nicholas Vahdias says:

          yeah definitely, we will talk by email though

      2. Svmmoned says:

        I understand, but I was thinking only about small, exemplary bits like, for example, how 4ths works in their songs.

  12. quick question says:

    where to send articles/write-ups if one wants to contribute?

    1. Brock Dorsey says:

      editor@deathmetal.org

      Always room for new writers/contributors!

  13. Nordmannen says:

    Excellent effort on all accounts!

    Suggestions for future analyses:

    Cryptopsy – Phobophile

    Dissection – The Somberlain

    Gorguts – The Erosion of Sanity (or any song from the namesake album)

    Immolation – Close to a World Below

Comments are closed.


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