Album Review: Cistvaen – At Light’s Demise


Cistvaen – At Light’s Demise

By Jools Green

Release date: (April 5 independent release)

Aptly named after the Celtic word for a burial chamber, given the often-funereal leanings of their lyrics and bleak doomy edge to their sound, Atmospheric Black Metal five-piece Cistvaen, follow-up on their 2021 debut EP Under the Silent Meadow Skies with their debut full-length offering, this time in both digital and physical format, the seven track, fifty-eight minute At Light’s Demise.


Sound wise, they are inspired somewhat by the likes of Agalloch or Fen in style, with added touches of English gloom and thematically and lyrically “drawing inspiration from the bleak stoicism of the landscapes of Dartmoor, contrasted with the fragility of the human condition, to create emotive music of elemental power and energy” to deliver music that is melodically sorrowful and lyrically introspective and those elements combined do make for a hugely engaging listen.

Regarding the album which builds on the foundations laid down by the EP, Lee comments that “It feels surreal to finally announce the release of Cistvaen’s debut album. I began writing tracks for this record as far back as 2019, so it’s been nearly five years in the making! I’ve grown a lot and been through a lot of personal changes in this time, and I feel the album documents this emotional growth tastefully. It has been a pleasure working on these songs with James Mardon, Chris Finch, Ed Wilcox and Guy Taylor who bring my musical visions to life and beyond; and of course, Mark who has come back into the fold and has been essential in the process of preparing to release this record. They all have my most humble gratitude. I hope the album allows the listener to experience the same level of emotional introspection that I do when listening back to it, and that it might bring people together and allow for free flow of thought and even conversation with those closest to you.”

Like the predecessor, the first thing that strikes you almost immediately is the superb, overwhelming atmosphere that pours out and engulfs you. I love that all these tracks are once again lengthy compositions and therefore varied and complex, allowing you to really immerse and lose yourself within the music, all the tracks have a superb organic flow to their construct, seamlessly moving between walls of intense riffing, often overlaid with a more melodic guitarwork and clean reflective drops in pace. Vocalist/lyricist Guy also delivers a superb vocal range with clarity of content and his lyrics are cathartically bleak but hugely thought-provoking also.

Opening on At Light’s Demise, which was written during the lockdowns, it aims and succeeds in encapsulating the difficulty and despair felt by many during those times when they couldn’t see their loved ones, with intense driving riffs at the core that ebb back on arrival of vocals, which deliver superbly bleak and icy lyrical content, alongside haunting melodic swathes and a hauntingly reflective spoken element, a track that is as superbly dark and doomy as it gets.

Haunting undulating leadwork courses over an undercurrent of driving riffs on Cessation of Hope, again creating a bleak atmosphere, the pace intensifying briefly, just before the raw but reflective vocals arrive, ebbing back midway with clean reflective guitarwork, the pace rebuilds but remains reflective, a track that lyrically reflects on human failings and as the title suggests, a loss of hope.

On the mournfully reflective and atmospherically doom-rich The Epitaph I love how the sound builds in gradual layers, with a superb haunting repeat melody coursing through the first half of the track, the pace building into a blackened frenzy in the second half but holding onto that melodic quality.

In complete contrast Time, the Mournful, opens as a dark, driving beast, again overlaid melodically, the vocals coursing over chugging riffs which is hugely impactful, it does continue with that familiar ebb and build allowing for the vocal content to be appreciated fully and drops back to a mournfully reflective and contemplative mender midway, rebuilding hauntingly out of the gloom, the vocals taking on a tortuous feel, a very powerful track.

The hugely engaging Bleak House has a touch of the black’n’roll to the melodic element alongside those familiar intense waves of trademark Cistvaen riffs and reflective ebbs that feature on most of the tracks, followed by the penultimate piece, the reflective acoustic instrumental Silver Birch, swiftly followed by The Blind Observer, another track with very stark contrasts, one minute an intense driver the next dropping back to clean reflective passages.

I really can’t choose a favourite track as At Light’s Demise is a superb listen end to end, and was, like the EP, mixed and mastered by Josh Gallop, often referred to as the sixth member of the band, at Stage 2 Studios in Bath.

The band comment that “Once again, we’d like to thank everyone who has supported us this far and helped us to reach this point. Every word of support, feedback and advice has been cherished and listened to and we can’t wait for you to hear the whole record!” Personally, having heard the album I’m really looking forward to hearing to performed live also.


At Light’s Demise | Cistvaen (

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