Founded in 2020, Spirit Tomb is the solo project of the Renaissance man Leon Kristoffer of Norway. Spirit Tomb consists of an intoxicating blend of piano, cello, and vocals. A highly accomplished engineer, Leon Kristoffer perfectly produces Spirit Tomb’s content himself. The LP Spiritus Lacrimarum: Dolorem in Lacrimas Efundere is the second installment in the “Aandegrav Trilogy,” which began with grief on the EP The Lotus of Dahlia and will lead to catharsis on the LP The Haunted Palace, according to the musician. Spiritus Lacrimarum, which represents loss, is a sublime piece of work that delivers absolute artistic truth. This masterpiece is gorgeous, thought-provoking, cerebral, fashionable, rewarding, and elegant.
Leon Kristoffer is a great lyricist in his own right. Yet, he carefully selected eight poems by Edgar Allan Poe to perform on Spiritus Lacrimarum, which he laces with what seems like occult magic. This record conjures phantoms, memories, and hopes from deep within the subconscious for a vivid hallucinatory experience. Spiritus Lacrimarum induces horror, feverish anxiety, and ecstasy. There is solace in the lovesick pain that this LP constantly inflicts upon its listeners.
In all of his regal splendor, Leon Kristoffer could certainly make just about any classically trained thespian turn green. For Spiritus Lacrimarum, the artist summons all of his youthful energy and maturity. His wisdom births enviable creative choices. The strength of his Mephistophelean charisma actually proves confounding. Leon Kristoffer’s passion may be raw, but he accomplishes his aims with admirable refinement and grace. The ethereal Spiritus Lacrimarum feels so honest and exposed that it seems like an impossible tightrope walk. Nevertheless, Leon Kristoffer succeeds fully by affecting the ideal balance between technique and emotion. Despite its initial appearance of fragile beauty, Spiritus Lacrimarum is actually quite a dangerous offering. When one dips a little deeper into the entrancing music, one discovers that its overpowering waves of fervor engulf, drown, and batter you like a rip tide.
Leon Kristoffer implements a variety of vocal approaches that demonstrate his versatility. Yes, even whispering, he is more than powerful enough to blow you away. This speaks to the fact that even in its most intimate moments, Spiritus Lacrimarum lends the impression of enormity. This effort retains an exhilarating element of unpredictability. Leon Kristoffer’s cries on “To One in Paradise,” for example, lacerate you with their pointed intensity. The devastatingly divine female vocals that sweep in toward the end of the penultimate track, “A Dream within a Dream,” are bound to whisk audiences away to another world.
A seasoned and superb composer, Leon Kristoffer’s melodies are as transportive as absinthe. Enigmatic as the “little phrase” from Vinteuil’s Sonata in Proust, Spiritus Lacrimarum works its way under the skin with a surgeon’s precision. Spirit Tomb defies categorization; it is steeped in tradition yet amazes you with its innovation. A master of chiaroscuro, Leon Kristoffer pushes beyond the confines of modern classical to create a dark romantic style of his own. The result seems to belong to the present, future, and bygone eras. In a sense, the journey of Spiritus Lacrimarum feels as lonely as a walk through the desolate halls of the past wherein only statues offer company. This album, which deals with timeless themes, begs you to look squarely at death and also turn your gaze toward an atemporal realm.
Spiritus Lacrimarum may embrace a minimalistic approach in certain respects, but this elite opus creates a feeling of lethal lavishness, wrapping listeners in a variety of posh textures. The music glitters with crystalline brilliance while paralyzing you with the formidable grandeur of a king’s cold sepulcher. Leon’s noble perfectionism and attention to detail make for an experience as nuanced as the gilded details on the ceilings of imperial buildings; the way Spiritus Lacrimarum was produced begs you to crank up the volume and listen intently in order to savor the minutiae.
This LP is completed by magnificent cover art and a gatefold painting by Mitchell Nolte. The stunning booklet photos were taken by Joacim Jørgensen and Markus Krug, a.k.a. Frostschock. In the future, we can hope for a full-length movie to accompany Spiritus Lacrimarum; Leon Kristoffer works with the brilliant photographer and filmmaker Nicolai Karlsen. Indeed, Spirit Tomb is an audiovisual experience that, again, fully immerses listeners.
Over the past few months, Spirit Tomb has become the measure of authenticity and integrity by which I judge non-metal acts. That said, Spirit Tomb is more abysmal in depth and weighs more heavily upon the soul than all but the very best black metal. If you open yourself to them, Spirit Tomb’s funereal love songs impart the sensation of being incinerated by seraph’s wings. Yet, Leon Kristoffer embodies the transcendent resilience of a phoenix rising. We can’t wait for the trilogy’s final installment, The Haunted Palace.