It is a matter of some amazement to me that the world has rotated on it’s axis fully fourteen times since last we heard from French collective Dark Sanctuary. An album, Metal, revisiting old works in a new style and an EP, Iterum, have emerged in that time, but new work Cernunnos is the artist’s first full-length exploration of sound and shadow since 2009’s Exaudi Vocem Meam (Part II).

At once it is noted that the style most associated with the artist, a shimmering, epic melancholy burnished by folkish melody and neoclassical bombast, remains in full operation. Whilst compositions may vary in length from as short as three to over nine and a half minutes, each is stamped with the aura of the grandiose; juxtaposed with vocal interjections that exude both welcoming warmth and a cold fragility, the intimacy of the human blends with the abstract musical statement of the orchestration to present works that are at once deeply personal yet able to portray the world around us at it’s most wondrous, it’s most expansive.

The album’s title piece is perhaps the best to use as an exemplar; here, the artist uses both vocals and a heroic violin motif to ensnare the listener. At it’s most simple, this might be regarded almost as mainstream music, music of the kind one might find used as background to a television programme or a cinematic experience. And yet, as the music’s symbols and signs make themselves known, it also become far more, making the listener aware of fragments of meaning beyond the obvious, of a purpose to the music beyond the mere requirements of entertainment. If one is truly able to connect with the artist at this level, then a whole new understanding of the music is possible.

The piece Hiems is similarly both simple yet aeon-encompassingly complex. Only total immersion in the art of Dark Sanctuary can give clue to the artist’s purpose – I humbly entreat you to undertake such an immersion as soon as you are able.

Cernunnos releases today (March 17th).