A vertiginous aggressor upon the underground black metal scene starting in 1999, the black/death force of Greek masters Embrace of Thorns‘ inception emulated the rhythmic panic of war metal heroes Blasphemy and Sarcófago on their earliest releases. The project began to receive greater notice with their third and fourth demos in 2004. The first was ‘Chants of Atomic Genocide’ a strangled mess of grinding tension and guttural roars that would give way to the cleaner, death metal leaning ‘Stench of the Deceased Martyrs’. These two demos saw Embrace of Thorns finding their own balancing act between black metal atmospherics, death metal fidelity enough to stand out in the psychoactive war metal landscape. Though the bands first full-length ‘...for i See Death in Their Eyes...’ in 2007 would continue the traditions of war metal culture it would be the last typified release from the band to date. Eleven years later on their fifth full-length Embrace of Thorns exist as their own entity, a collective idol worthy of worship.
Ever a hallucinogenic blur of anti-religious furor, their blasphemy only amplified when conjoined with Necrovorous and Burial Hordes drummer Βαγγέλης Φελόνης (Vagelis Felonis). With some greater exploration of death metal structures Embrace of Thorns found it’s most steady covenant in creation of ‘Atonement’ and this deified line-up would largely persist until 2014. This era of the band approximates to a mix of Demoncy‘s atmospheric and cavernous black metal as well as the brutal punch of Imprecation‘s first record though they hadn’t lost that Archgoat-like warrior’s fire. Much of this would change for their 2011 album ‘Praying for Absolution’ with the addition of Abomination Virginborn aka Anastasis Valtsanis (Dead Congregation) on guitars. The band’s style evolved towards the atmospheric death metal of the day slightly, but without losing their identity. This is where I initially discovered the band as a huge fan of both Greek black metal and Dead Congregation.
The full movement away from war metal towards ‘blackened’ death metal doesn’t sound like a huge leap but Embrace of Thorns‘ discography since has landed upon more original conception and a signature sound despite the revolving door of second fiddle guitarists entering with each album. ‘Praying for Absolution’ was surely underrated but by 2014 the momentum had built for this pernicious band’s output and ‘Darkness Impenetrable’ seemed to befuddle the atmo-death hipster crowd with it’s old school death/thrash riffs and wailing solos courtesy of one-off second guitarist Fallen Angel of Fornication aka Nick Mirisiotis (Impure Worship) who brought some hints of Black Witchery along for the ride. A slight return to their roots was felt and appreciated but I think it frightened the puritanical death metal crowd, those who shrink in fear at the promise of punkish war metal riffs. The generally lower review scores for ‘Darkness Impenetrable’ were horseshit. I was a fan at that point, bought the shirt etc.
The excitement of landing upon ‘Scorn Aesthetics’ is so far one of the greater peaks of my 2018 experience both for it’s fidelity and admirably defiant philosophy. Shattering the very concept of heaven in the minds of fools through cannon-like drumming from Maelstrom aka John Votsis (Ectoplasma, Nigredo, Thou Art Lord), this fifth album is an immediate, fuming roar of blackened death metal’s most perfect spawn. Supported by six-stringed torment in the form of cyclonic riffs that outclass even ‘Praying for Absolution’ in terms of ferocious atmospherics and memorability, ‘Scorn Aesthetics’ is a mind-bristling thrill to witness throughout. Serpentine lead guitars are like morbid cellos in a descent to the chasms of torturous Hades as they presage and inflame underlying epic melodic structures to perilous effect, damned further yet by the gore-throated voice of Hel that Archfiend DevilPig has become.
It’ll sound trite but the death/thrash influences of ‘Darkness Impenetrable’ seem to have motioned towards a more distinctly Hellenic black metal influence felt on ‘Scorn Aesthetics’. It is Embrace of Thorns‘ own brutally intense version of this lineage. Forged ahead by a precisely cast coiling, a well fed blackened flame of their previously noted influences, made stoic in it’s blasphemic opposition. Abrupt and epic at once this fifth iteration is poised in morbid defiance of satiating the fickle masses and instead focuses on delivering mountainous riffs that escape today’s beguiling atmospherics in favor of the classic force of heavy metal applied to extremist black/death rot.
Relentless consistency and dynamic movements make for a cripplingly engaging listening experience that would be mentally suffocating if not for it’s perfect ~45 minute length; Just enough time to attack mercilessly (“Stoking the Fire of Resentment”) and extend their vision further still (“In Our Image, After Our Likeness”) without redundancy. Not one moment of ‘Scorn Aesthetics’ is wasteful or out-of-line with it’s total vision. “Mutter Aller Leiden” is an achievement and an ‘album seller’ from my point of view with it’s ritualistic classic black metal riffs and disintegrating atmospheric death metal guitar fills. This same type of momentum and riff-craft holds throughout with the title track pulling another standout composition amidst a flawless tracklist.
It is undeniably a terrible year to be so in love with extreme metal because the fear of missing out could potentially be crippling for the easily overwhelmed. For my taste Embrace of Thorns have conjured an unerring stream of ancient-minded black/death metal incorruptible by the curse of trend by virtue of it’s classic heavy metal skeleton. It is an album appropriate for a dark and cursed age of humanity with a timeless melange of influences that inspired and damned me with every listen. With no great love for classic Greek black metal and the previous two releases from Embrace of Thorns this might not be exactly as exciting for you, but I think the riffs and ‘epic’ feeling of the compositions are undeniable in their appeal.
|Released||June 22, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Iron Bonehead Productions Bandcamp! (6/22/18)||Follow Embrace of Thorns on Facebook|
Calamity upon frail existence. 5.0/5.0
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