Release DetailsLABEL Agonia Records
RELEASED ON 5/10/2011
posted on 5/2011 By:
Since their inception in 2002, Aosoth has lurked patiently in the shadows while other French black metal projects like Antaeus, Blut Aus Nord, and Deathspell Omega have surged into the spotlight in the black metal scene. And while the band's previous two albums were well-received (and awesome in their own right), one couldn’t help but feel like Aosoth’s true potential was still being hinted at, and the work that would serve as their true entrance into the blackened elite was still being concocted. III is that entrance, and what a triumphant one it is.
Interestingly enough, Aosoth has evolved to this level by going a few steps “backwards” from their first two albums in terms of clarity and complexity. Previous LP Ashes of Angels, while still rooted in raw BM aesthetics, had a visceral modern edge to it that gave it clear similarities to projects like Antaeus (with whom Aosoth shares a vocalist). With III, Aosoth has broken away from any clear ties to their fellow French musicians, or any other black metal outfits for that matter. While the disturbing dissonance of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord are certainly influences, as is the blazing intensity of Antaeus, Aosoth’s music has evolved greatly in both scope and atmosphere to stand boldly on its own terms.
A lot of the hallmarks of Ashes of Angels and the self-titled album have carried over to III – intense and unsettling riffs, hoarse vocals, the occasional death-metal-inspired groove -- but they have been completely reinterpreted and reestablished on this release. Most of the riffs here are simplistic in construction; the speed and use of blastbeats is greatly diminished compared to past works; and the musicianship is decidedly non-flashy. The overall delivery is a lot more hazy and less blistering. The result is an album that is almost obscenely dark and grotesque. Every texture, every vocal, every sound on here feels like it is dripping with blood and filth; if Ashes of Angels was the sound of an army of chainsaws tearing through Heaven, III is the last fading glimpse of the ensuing carnage seen by the slaughtered divine beings before they sink permanently into oblivion. It’s the spellbinding method of songwriting and the palpable atmosphere of dread that makes this album such a monster, and what separates it from its predecessors and most other black metal being released today. From the opening notes of the first song (all six of which are numerically titled), the members of Aosoth pull you under a massive cloak of suffocating darkness, not allowing any light to slip through as they play with your sanity.
This is easily one of the heaviest black metal albums you’re likely to find; in fact, I can’t easily recall a black metal release with such a thunderous crunch that still remained firmly within the confines of the genre’s roots. The huge production is a big part of this: The unusually low-tuned guitars and thunderous drums are delivered with the heft of death and doom metal, but retain a decidedly grim, seething undercurrent. The suffocating weight of the guitars makes for a sound that can be both ripping and intense or chilling and meditative, depending on the direction the band chooses to go. The numerous harmonies and discordant interludes layed atop the riffs are often cloudy and hard to distinguish initially, but once the intent of the songs reveal themselves, their subtlety becomes a huge asset. Despite its tremendous sense of atmosphere, all of this material is still fundamentally riff-based, and the band almost never inches towards formless ambient territory in establishing mood; it's all in the way that the music is portrayed. III is the rare kind of album that makes a tremendous impact on the first couple of spins and continues to reveal more as time goes on, and it's all due to the extensive care that Aosoth has put into crafting a dense and complex work that maintains a sense of urgency and immediacy.
The key to this depth, and the greatest triumph of III as an album, is the way that Aosoth consistently toys with your expectations as the songs progress. Many of these riffs are fairly simplistic and structurally similar, but the way the band lays them out in the songs is masterful. Each track on III ebbs and flows with unpredictable turns and bends, and the album is remarkably listenable from start to finish despite its largely one-dimensional nature. Heavier moments like the ominous thunder that opens the first track and the triumphant expanse in the middle of track four are offset by moments like the chilling keyboard intro of “III” and the haunting discordance that floats throughout centerpiece “V.” Every riff on this disc works not just in its own right, but strengthens the rest of the song as a whole. While many black metal bands strive for “atmosphere” purely through repetition, Aosoth focuses more on dynamic tension to illicit a response, and it gives music that is already brilliantly written and performed that extra edge and longevity that keeps it firmly imprinted in your brain long after listening.
III is just one of those albums where even the “flaws” feel like they benefit the overall picture. The somewhat muddled production adds to the morbid heft of the guitar work; the passive vocals heighten the intensity purveyed by the instruments; and even when the slower and more eerie passages drag on (and they sometimes do), the tension they create means the ripping riffs hit that much harder when they resurface. All in all, Aosoth’s third full-length, in addition to being one of the most effectively menacing albums of 2011, is just a beautiful example of what can result when a familiar form of music is reinterpreted with extensive care and meticulous attention to detail. III is an intimidating, mesmerizing, and truly massive release, and one that easily elevates Aosoth to the highest echelon of black metal bands.
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