posted on 1/2006 By:
Life sure ain’t fair. It’s a fact that you’ve no doubt figured out, and one of which Aphotic is acutely fucking aware. The Wisconsin act recently called it quits after five long years of footing the bill for their numerous releases and trying in vain to land the record deal that should have been imminent. What’s worse is that this band grew from the demise of Dusk, another well regarded doom band who also struggled for years to get a label deal and finally packed it in. And in a time when we so frequently shake our heads at bands that land deals despite being blatantly devoid of anything even remotely interesting, the demise of a very good band like Aphotic despite their dedication and best efforts, is a nasty reminder of what we already know: sometimes, life just ain’t fair.
You might wonder if the favorable review for Failure doesn’t reflect a deification of this band based on my perspective on their demise, but a look at our reviews of previous releases shows that this EP received the same score as the one I gave Stillness Grows (a collection of their first three EPs), and Erik Thomas gave their split with Dusk. More importantly, it shows the consistency throughout the band’s career and five EPs. Aphotic was never going to be my favorite band, but while I’m disappointed that fellow doomsters YOB recently decided to part ways, it’s equally frustrating that a consistently enjoyable band couldn’t find enough opportunity to be able to continue.
The pointedly titled Failure includes the last five songs the band wrote and a bonus track from 2000, and is a worthy swansong. Aphotic’s style of death doom is very song oriented, which means the band eschews the typical marathon track times in favor of three minutes of well-structured melody and venom. The material is also unusually up-tempo for the genre, and then contrasted with slower keyboard lines, which works to give the songs a downcast swaying melancholia. A comparison to Katatonia is not only appropriate, but also deserved. Aphotic’s penchant for making the most of their songs is part of what makes them so interesting. As mentioned above, the songs are quite brief, but the band does a nice job developing each one by shifting between variations of its theme, creating songs that flow well and are subtly varied. There’s no fat to be trimmed. The vocals are where the band uses the most explicit contrasts. A bitter, raspy snarl is the standard delivery, but the band also uses clean vocals frequently and well, especially during the early portions of songs. The clean vocals are somewhat low in the mix and work with the keyboards to incorporate a melodic, atmospheric despondency to the songs’ more muscular, icy riffing. Failure’s twenty-one minute runtime is enough to give you your money’s worth, but I frequently found myself restarting the album after wondering where the time went.
Aphotic’s five EPs are all worth your time, and I recommend picking up any of them that you run across. Now that the band has broken up their material will be hard to come by, and they’ve placed the remainder of their merchandise on ebay. But if you find yourself with a choice of releases, the Stillness Grows album boasts three of the band’s EPs, and the split is also a good choice because it also features material from Dusk. But although it’s one of the leaner offerings, Failure stands equal to its predecessors. Bottom line, is buy any and all Aphotic albums you can find. They’ll be missed by many. It’s only a shame it’s not by more.
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