Review & Full Album Stream: Huata, Lux Initiatrix Terrae

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

huata lux initiatrux terrae cover

[Click play above to stream Huata’s Lux Initiatrix Terrae in full. Album is out Nov. 23 on Sludgelord Records, Seeing Red Records and Musicfearsatan.]

Songs become grandiose riff ceremonies and the album as a whole becomes a ritual rooted in harmonized meditations and weighted progressive instrumentalism. Atmosphere is paramount. Texture is everywhere. And if it’s a ritual, then despite their penchant for donning a robe or two, France’s Huata bring a feeling of celebration to their second album, Lux Initiatrix Terrae, and that pushes beyond horror-minded cultish tropes. Those themes may be somewhere in 15-minute opener “Mythical Beast of Revelations,” to be sure, but they’re buried so deep beneath organ and the vocal work of Ronan Grall, who also handles drums and is joined in the band by guitarist/bassist Benjamin Moreau, that they’re harder to discern in the first place. The Brittany duo work primarily in longform stretches across the willfully unmanageable 68-minute runtime, with five tracks over 10 minutes long and two interludes under three, and Moreau and Grall bring in a host of outside players — presumably to contribute vocals and keys, etc. — to help them flesh out the ensuing complexity of the material. Five other names are credited: Gurvan Coulon, David Barbe, Alexis Degrenier, Laetitia Jehano, Marion Le Sollier, but as to who does what, it’s unclear.

In any case, the resulting contributions of all parties are wildly immersive, as between the bookends of “Mythical Beast of Revelations” and 16-minute closer “Third Eyed Nation,” the band unfolds a perpetually widening cascade of moods and sounds, such that the eerie organ and synth in the closer are consistent in approach with what’s preceded even as they seem to reach further into a kind of colorful abyss — Huata‘s sound too rich and too vibrant to simply conjure images of light-absent emptiness. Theirs is the proverbial shining void, and their material finds them churning this multi-hued, potent cauldron of sound with witchy glee, even as their overarching direction seems to be intent on taking them downward into it.

There’s a dichotomy there, and it’s brought to life in the recording and mix of Cyrille Gachet (Year of No Light, Chaos Echoes, The Great Old Ones), which allows for a broad reach between the Electric Wizard-gone-interstellar start of “Child of the Cosmic Mind,” samples and organ and low riffs all circling around each other in slowly building wash, but it’s elements like the tone of the guitar and bass, the compression effects on the oft-harmonized vocals and the inclusion of various keys — church organ among them and feeling particularly appropriate, given the overall aesthetic — that tie everything together and make Lux Initiatrix Terrae so fluid. The distorted heft comes and goes, but so do nearly all the other elements at work throughout, as nothing seems to be permanent or beyond the band’s reach. A slow march in “The Solar Work” picks up where “Child of the Cosmic Mind” leaves off, and might be the closest thing to a title-track present on the album, the first and last word of which are Latin for “light” and “world” and the middle which puts together ideas of beginnings and so that it’s something like light begetting the world — “The Solar Work” doesn’t seem so far off from that.

huata lux initiatrux terrae

Either way, in the second half of the 10:35 piece, the vocals give way to melodic shouts in a kind of relative apex, but by then the idea is made plain that repetition is a key part of this ritual. Huata‘s songs — reminiscent of more recent Ancestors in their vocal approach and progressive lean — are mantras. It’s not going to be about hooks or about roping the listener in with a catchy solo or sharp rhythmic turn. The three-song salvo tops 36 minutes and is an album unto itself, let alone the second LP that follows it as the 2:50 “Part I – Gathering in Sin Wur” makes its way via organ and soft guitar toward the lung-crushing weight — worthy of whatever comparisons to Slomatics or Conan or Ufomammut one might want to draw — and ranging scale-work melody of “The Golden Hordes of Kailash,” which furthers the thread of a purposeful delve into hypnotics, a post-midsection break meshing together different layers of keys in order to set the stage for a return to the nodding, lumbering push that draws the listener back into the multi-tiered wash of distortion and melody before what even after 10-plus minutes feels like a sudden stop.

The second interlude, “Part II – The IXth Arch Assembly” follows the diversionary modus of its predecessor, drifting with soft guitars and underlying keys that resolve in wistful notes ahead of the arrival of “Third Eyed Nation,” which makes its way in gradually — of course — with complementary ambience before the vocals start less than a minute in. Those expecting a grand finale after what’s already been an hour-long listen should be sated by “Third Eyed Nation,” which even in its first half seems to signal its spot as culmination of the proceedings, though after seven minutes, the drums cut out and a stretch of spoken samples and almost siren-esque synth sounds in a high frequency and others in a lower frequency take hold before guitar sneaks back in to signal the return of the tonal onslaught and the beginning of the real apex.

They get there, in other words, and frankly, if one is making the journey through Lux Initiatrix Terrae and gets as far as “Third Eyed Nation,” the expectation that Huata are going to take their time getting to where they want to go should be well ingrained. It’s hard to imagine making it across the songs otherwise, since that head-down, prog-tinged dirge vibe is so writ large and so consistent throughout the material. That’s not to say Moreau and Grall don’t make efforts to change their approach in terms of surroundings, personnel and mood, but the aspects of their sound that they carry with are what enable them to create the world that one seems to inhabit while listening. And one of Lux Initiatrix Terrae‘s greatest strengths stems from the band’s ability to put the listener in the mindset they intend, the place they intend.┬áThat world may be created by light, I don’t know, and it may certainly be chaotic, but Huata guide their audience through it with a sure hand that’s well evocative of the dogma they’ve envisioned.

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