The depths of the ocean are layered and classified much like those of human skin. The deeper one digs the more crucially specialized the inhabitants of each layer becomes. Where the comparison dies in the machination of both structures; The dermis expels waste and dead cells upwards whereas the dark waters of the aphotic zone are a tomb-like feeding ground for sightless beings and falling detritus. The impenetrable dark basal layer of the ocean offers a landing place for death; There within dark world of the abyssopelagic zone extreme pressure crushes all but the most specialized lifeforms and compacts carcass and trash alike into nutrient dense feed for eyeless, glowing beings. Venice, Italy based death metal band Psychotomy seem intent on reaching for a deepest possible layer of darkness on the follow-up to their death/thrashing debut ‘Antinomia’ (2015). ‘Aphotik’ finds the trio expanding to a quartet and with this shift comes a new paradigm of darkness, leaning towards Immolation‘s guttural crawl festooned with Svart Crown‘s crushing tyranny.
‘Aphotik’ might immediately just sound like and the bands I’ve mentioned and you might just write Psychotomy off right there but I think that’d be worthlessly hasty. To jump back to ‘Antinomia’ first and see how much their sound has changed in just a couple of years should be fairly remarkable. More of a thrash and deathgrind influenced record Psychotomy‘s debut was a grotesque, crunching death metal record that was driven by movements that lacked any real focus beyond atmospheric tension. ‘Aphotik’ uses that tension to build what I would consider far superior song structures that hold up to repeat listening. As with any atmospherically driven record the success of that tension is everything and they land somewhere between ‘Harnessing Ruin’ and Svart Crown‘s mildly technical ‘Profane’ on this first shot at a darker turn.
All things considered, I have been a fan of Immolation since I first sprouted pubes so nothing on ‘Aphotik’ surprises me at all outside of a few highlights. I apologize for the so-direct comparison but even after ten listens it is still my first thought when firing up this album. “Blood Red Kvlt” is driven by a stunning middle section with a memorable riff driving its movement and this is where I first began to warm up to what Psychotomy was doing with this all-too-familiar sound. This track and the one that follows (“Ascent Through Malevolence”) immediately reminded me of what Spanish band Domains were doing on ‘Sinister Ceremonies’ back in 2014 but with a warmer, less rigid sound. They haven’t quite made their own style of it a la Dead Congregation or Drawn and Quartered but this first step is readily impressive and professionally realized. I have to give this band a lot of credit for being able to stylistically adapt and refocus within such a short period of time; The gloom is a mile thick already and that gives me a ton of confidence in the potential of Psychotomy‘s future. Reasonably high recommendation.
Poisoning the abyss. 3.5/5.0
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