There are moments in which music becomes a voyage of self-discovery. In others, they're the songs themselves who choose you to decipher their message, even though you hardly realize that. The sixth full-length album by Merciful Nuns succeeds in combining both experiences. Throughout "Exosphere VI" the Germans have expanded the horizons of their Goth Rock hallmark while delving deeper into the memory of our origins. It virtually shapes a crucial stage in their particular cosmogony and its sonic forms are equally significant, as it could be not otherwise. The title track is representative of the band's qualitative boost. "Exosphere" opens the album linking with the vaporous end of its predecessor, "Goetia V", but this is little more than an out-of-space mirage. After the quiet, yet weird, intro - "... / we have slept a deep and soundless sleep / in waters like dark ice for aeons" - there's a striking rush of chords and drums, with processed chants going round Artaud's enraged croons at their most impressive - "... / keeping the Exosphere / calling me out of here / turning around in anger! / ...". And it's only just the beginning. What awaits us in the CD is the summit work of the Nuns - at least for my part it is, with no detriment at all to the previous ones. The trio manages to draw on their past incarnations - specially through a driving strings sound - as well as on their preceding ambient and progressive forms, bringing out the best in a broader, more complex version of themselves. Following "Black Body" is a telling evidence of this. Flawless pacing and meaningful sound development, seamlessly switching between epic and harmonious passages. The vibe is cinematic in scale and ambition, punctuated by perfectly timed tablas, tambourines and bass. While distant wails from synths and guitars join Seth's hoarse proclamations in the choruses: "... / bright - light / watch the stars falling faster / watch our hearts breaking faster /...". Lead single "Supernovae" comes next, causing a burst of rocking radiation. Hard-hitting rhythms coupled with meandering chords, tracing ellipses around the baritones. It's Goth Rock blasting in its full-scale, driving home the imagery of the lyrics: "... / lost in magnetism and radiation / rotating around us like a pulsar /...". After the storm, "Astral Plane" takes us into a serene tunefulness. Hypnotic thuds and jangling strings provide a floating backdrop for Artaud's low-pitched lulls. "... / lost / in time / and space / ...". This verse marks a turning point and thereafter the song expands into a doomy choral lament. Following "Ultraviolet" achieves to strike a deep emotional chord in us. It begins slowly emanated from piano and synths, but then it leads into a percussive soundscape, featuring ancient rhythms and ringing guitar melodies in the evoking role. The alchemy works and Seth's timbre drips within it with vehement and longing: "... / We are made of stardust / of cosmic breath / infinity exists / in the colours of outer space / ...". It fades into its brief sequel, "The Core", with classic keys sounding ominously this time. It takes us onto an uncertain quiet, just before embarking on the oriental flavored "Vimana Machine". Once more, strings and cadences twirl around the vocals and gradually form a maelstrom prior to the final 'takeoff'. "... / black is so much better / than white / a million miles away / they take my DNA / alien beings floating through / the Vimana machine". "The Passing Bell" rounds off the album with elegant, ambient progressiveness. Eleven minutes of astral epic based on velvety plays of bass and fleeting, pristine guitar melodies. Artaud's vocal delivery is genuinely magnetic while the machines spray haunting vapors from beyond. Its last third is memorable, spherical, and certainly leaves the portal open to what the Nuns reserve us in the near future: "... / black, empty / infinite deep / then something!". For the moment, "Exosphere VI" indeed merits a special entry in the modern Goth Rock memorabilia.
Review by Billyphobia