ONLY THE YOUNGEST GRAVE by Lost Salt Blood Purges
Genre: Drone, Neofolk
Favorite Tracks: “Oneiric,” “First Chant: Waxing, Waning, Moon,” “Lanthanesthai,” “The Spirit Meets the Skin”
Despite the death and occult imagery one immediately associates with such a shocking and provocative album title and artwork, ONLY THE YOUNGEST GRAVE is a stirring, subtle work of breathtaking humanity. There are certainly heavy moments of darkness swirling around the dense and foggy soundscapes curated by Australian-based ambient folk musician Michael Snoxall, but his careful compositions routinely manage to find the flickers of light despite the dreariness clinging all around them. ONLY THE YOUNGEST GRAVE is rife with fuzzy, harsh, and occasionally glitchy drone and noise, but what Snoxall manages to do masterfully is use these sounds as a canvas for some truly soul-enriching instrumentation to layer on top of the record’s chaotic underbelly.
Album opener “Oneiric” sets the tone of the record perfectly; bubbly, slightly glitchy noise starts the track off, only to give way to a soothing vocal sample with accompanying guitar and be swallowed eventually once again by the fuzzy, booming waves of static, eventually giving way to some truly breathtaking saxophone work. Snoxall nicely sets the mood and completely immerses the listener in the lengthy journey he is about to take them on, a totally immersive swell of noise and beauty. (It should be noted here that a lot of the subtlety of this record will be lost entirely without a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones ‒ some of the most important frequencies are barely audible through standard laptop speakers.)
The harshness of the drone Snoxall generates can at first cause a gut instinct to compare him to ambient black metal acts such as Paysage D’Hiver or Velvet Cacoon. However, an honest listening to ONLY THE YOUNGEST GRAVE finds Snoxall trying to engender an entirely different sensation than the likes of Tobias Möckl. Whereas ambient black metal tries mostly to inspire a sense of crushing dread and futility, Snoxall is digging deeper at capturing the entirety of human experience. Tracks such as “First Chant: Waxing, Waning, Moon” and “The Spirit Meets the Skin” are driven by tribalistic, pagan rhythms that give the record a primal feeling of ancient power. Additionally, any of the severely lengthy tracks encompassed here can experience similar dramatic shifts to the ones experienced in “Oneiric,” meaning that the record never becomes a block of hopeless sound as can often happen with black metal. Snoxall very much wants to capture the terror of human nature, but also its pained joys and sorrows, something closer to the totality of human experience, in other words.
In this sense, the band that is truly most readily comparable to Lost Salt Blood Purges would have to be Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with both musicians never skirting away from melding together disparate genres in a grand, sweeping manor. Just like Godspeed, it would not at all be surprising to hear Snoxall’s work appear in films soon. The dramatic, immersive intensity combined with the sheer length of the tracks would make for a remarkable score. It’s important to note, however, that while Godspeed works as a collective orchestra of sorts, Lost Salt Blood Purges is the brain-child of Snoxall, and the music therefore takes on a more introspective bend than one would typically hear from Godspeed. As harsh and devastating as moments of this record are, there’s an overall tenderness to it, a willingness to expose oneself to the beauty of life in the face of all of its miseries. As Camus wrote, “For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.” Snoxall has managed to truly embrace this life, all of it, and craft music all the more magnificent for it.