Pär Svensson of Kurtz, himself a rock guitarist with unbelievably eclectic musical tastes, pops in with a guest entry.
Martin asked me to review the debut album of his brother’s death metal outfit (as he put it), citing general unfamiliarity with the genre as a reason. Arguably he’s also lacking somewhat in the objectivity department. Or, he hated the record and wanted someone else to bring the hatchet down. Maybe I’m a pawn being pushed in some family power struggle or blood feud. Give this job to Clemenza.
But I digress. At hand is Remnants of Forgotten Horrors by Stockholm black metal combo Astrophobos, who, consequently, do not play death metal. Whereas death metal is characterised mainly by low-pitched growls, bulldozers, blood, death, and war, black metal tends to be more of high-pitched screams, power drills, jackhammers, satanism, and, well, war. Mythology is another theme common to both genres, and Astrophobos draw heavily on H.P. Lovecraft’s literary universe, from their very band name, through the album title, right down to the lyrics. Browsing the booklet, I expected a good serving of madness, darkness, and lurking horrors, and was not disappointed.
Music-wise, we are dealing with mid- to fast-paced black metal, well-produced and technically proficient, still with a commendable lack of extraneous showings-off. Well-conceived arrangements lend a feeling of natural progression to the songs, as do the tempo changes, which keep the listener’s interest up. Catchy melodic riffing balances the harsh vocals, and gives the songs that hum-along quality you get with any good pop song, regardless of its distortion levels. While this definitely makes the music more accessible, it doesn’t really fall in line with the lyrical themes. Compared to fellow Lovecraftian band Portal, whose static death metal evokes claustrophobia, psychosis and horror, Astrophobos’s upbeat compositions appear more like a celebration of the vast majesty of the universe than an exposé of the unspeakable evil dormant in its deepest recesses. Given this, and accepting that the style is par for the course in black metal, I believe the songs would benefit from a more varied vocal approach, as the one-dimensional delivery rather restrains them.
Bottom line: competent straight-forward black metal, well-crafted songs with melodic qualities. Accessible enough to be recommended to genre neophytes, but harsh vocals will still put a lot of people off.
Highlights: The Dissection-esque “Soul Disruptor“, the Marduk-esque “Of Primal Mystery”, and the Astrophobos-esque “Celestial Calamity”.
Over and out.
Pre-order the CD here.