The most profound reaches of psychedelia aren’t intended as entertainment or escapism but rather a disconnection from the self that’d serve to identify the self. This instinctual need to explore the true limits of the individual is the basis for every case of ritual and meditation created by man. For centuries we’d created gods and monsters to explain away the fears of the unknown world yet, it’d take the venom of Earth’s fruiting bodies and resistance-evolved creatures to see beyond the sockets of our own eyes. Given the choice to mentally boil under duress of light poisoning for the sake of incredible visions a certain percentage of man would choose to escape into a cave of their own creation forever. You’ll see them creeping up the walls when faced with a world they’d consider worse than their baddest of trips and there at the precipice of paranoia, schizophrenia, and recession from society lies the fringes that’d occupy the unknown occult psychedelia and heavy doom metal of New York based alchemists Python. They simply do not exist save for the calm and quiet lifeline of their record label. Yet, their lysergic tainted craft still manages to reach the well-trained plebeian masses every handful of years, inspiring glorious dismay and disturbance. A fool who does not wonder enough to go and reach beyond himself will forever dry up into meaningless, unloving skin.
‘Astrological Warfare’ is not a pristine manifesto or an oppressive work of hierarchical majesty but a skin-bound tome of spell and alchemical divination, a book of wisdom and secrets scrawled onto vellum as barely legible notes. Written by way of madness, not education, and performed entrenched in no certain dimensional space the 71 minute double LP within is a reading of ancient ritual and slithering improvisational movement. There is a powerful occult spiritual curse whispered beneath every moment, be it harsh noise, brazen psychedelia, or bounding doom metal there is ill intent for the listener and the destruction of their affected self. ‘Astrological Warfare’ is created for those who would create it as an action of documentation, not impersonation or to impress whatever wretched fool’d land upon its screaming horrors with an open mind. It will take an absolutely dedicated niche-knowledgeable specialist to decipher Python‘s second full-length and it will be a gloriously lonesome piece of psychedelic doom magick for it.
The press release is kind enough to give all of the guidance needed without a care for selling personality, ego, or ambition beyond a loving recreation of the ethos that’d driven heavy psych musicians across late 70’s Italy towards the dope-thirsty thunder of early Black Sabbath. The master Paul Chain is conjured along with his Violet Theatre troupe for the occasion and from there one can discern the deeper-unknowns such as The Mezmerist, The Black, Black Hole, and perhaps Zess to appear with some relevancy towards the ethos of Python. The expanded version of ‘Detaching From Satan’, particularly with the addition of “Vivid Eyes in the Dark”, is a very important informant for the modus of ‘Astrological Warfare’ but it only informs the jam-oriented psychedelia and spoken-word spirituals that dot the tracklist. For the free-swinging doom metal, ritual ambiance, and occultism therein look to The Black‘s ‘Infernus Paradisus et Purgatorium’ for additional guidance, that almost improvised pacing is a huge feature of Python‘s work on this record. There is occasionally some of the tortured sensitivity of Requiem‘s ‘Via Crucis’ but perhaps not as much as the previous album ‘Serpent Superstition’ (2015). Any other groups I could put a closer lens upon do tend to come up comparatively ordinary in their blues-structured jams and rock songwriting. Python do not exist entirely in service to the island of 80’s Italian doom metal and some of the doom metal tracks also invoke Death Row (pre-Pentagram) and Bedemon, particularly if you look to their more adventurous live interpretations. Ancient, broken, obscure and living only for themselves the doom metal core of Python is of the oldest most crumbling affect.
By the third song I believe the traditional doom metal fan will begin to wince and struggle in their seat as two extended pieces, one of auld horror cinema infused psychedelia and the other a sea of voices wailing incantation atop chiming keys and acoustic guitars for well over eight minutes. Without patience it’ll be a daunting hump for some although apart from “Wheels of Blood” the next six tracks are a mix of low-fi and bombastic garage psych, doom metal, and all of it appears as if it were a set of live performances driven by raw distortion and a righteous hallway of reverb. I’m not clear on how many vocalists are active on the recording but two distinct voices make appearances within. The first is a more typically stoned male voice often with what sound like live backup for some melodies (“Aeons Has Fallen”) though that could just be a powerful stroke of natural reverb; The second vocalist/vocal style is a higher pitched (female?) voice that shouts a bit like a bad hardcore vocalist. I understand this creates the feeling of a psych-freakout piece but often clashes horrendously with the mood of the music otherwise. This is particularly bad on “Land of Phantoms” and the final portion of “Shadow of the Curse”. There is yet memorable character in the duality of voices. Otherwise the greater experience of the album brings to mind Boston experimentalists Ice Dragon in their longer-winded heavy psych/stoner doom phase (see: “Tome of the Future Ancients”) if their focus had been on 80’s Italian doom rather than the post-Electric Wizard scene.
As I’d alluded to previously, ‘Astrological Warfare’ is not a traditional doom metal album nor is it an accessible one. The production appears to have been sporadic or unplanned over the space of years and the recordings are incredibly bare-naked in terms of mixing/normalization. Each track sounds practiced but untouched, as if they were taking place in a different room, space, or venue. The experience is challenging only for its harsh ‘lo-fi’ design, which appears intentionally evocative of an era and scene but, this really does bring out the brilliant psychedelic hand of Python pressing it forcefully into the ear. I greatly appreciated the often menacing ambiance of ‘Astrological Warfare’ combined with the fucked up spoken word portions, which felt alien and late 70’s experimental at the same time. Were I not a longtime Paul Chain fan who counts “Alkahest” and “Life and Death” among the greatest of all time I’m not sure I’d have been primed to understand the gritty rendering and obtuse length of ‘Astrological Warfare’. There is some very clever and well-written doom metal within the great spectacle of stylized sound that characterizes Python‘s second full-length to the point where I found myself appreciating the amount of time it’d taken to really soak in this lengthy and abrasive listen. Can I recommend it? No, you’re likely not going to be the type of person to enjoy this highly stylized album. If by chance you are a fan of the very slender niche expressed within then of course, this is a rich entry that reveals a real bounty of early 80’s psychedelic doom metal and heavy rock under possession of horrific spirits… To you, then, a very high recommendation. For preview I’d normally recommend my own favorites but, even if you were to check out both provided samples (“Night Takes All”, “Aeons Has Fallen”) there is a daunting leap of faith involved in giving the self up and letting ‘Astrological Warfare’ in. You’re likely not worthy of it.
Signifying the appetitive will. 4.25/5.0
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