Although the earliest rumblings of what would become Aphelion in 2018 began as a black metal side project (named Goat Sabbath) between Kansas City area death metal musicians in 2008 that initial vision would distort amidst a decade of silence. Those old songs would be re-fashioned vaguely in the form of No Fashion-era melodic black/death metal as Aphelion coalesced between folks who’d done time in Soheil Al Fard, Rimjob, and The Coventry Sacrifice. Are you still with me? Haven’t heard of any of these groups? Well, fire up Bandcamp and do your own research into the extreme metal landscape within Missouri and it’ll be well worth the time invested. In the meantime consider what ‘melodic black metal’ was before it was considered as such, a cult between gifted teenaged Swedish songwriters who’d seen a different, perhaps more sophisticated, horizon beyond death metal and aimed for the high watermark of progenitors like Dawn, Unanimated and Dissection. This is the right mindset to begin with in sussing out the growling, hollowed swaying of Aphelion on their debut EP, ‘I, but not the full gist of its being.
Just as the delirium of chants finishes its introduction of ‘I’ the immediate greeting of “Inferno Malefic” may not be as abrasive as ‘Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher’ but there is a sense of simple-yet-mournful melodic movement that begs to be felt or at the very least admired for its sensitivity and just as it becomes a comfortable rhythm Aphelion dive into it even deeper towards the end of the song, merging a more modern send-off with that classic feeling. For all of the dripping logo and the pestilential dancers on the cover art this was not as pure a form of raw black metal as I’d expected and as it turns out Aphelion are entirely guided by somber and powerful melodic decisions while still retaining a reverb heavy atmospheric rawness. I’d love to compare it to a lot of the old Swedish classics but ‘I’ is distinct from that particular movement because of the purely black metal focused style of drumming that never reaches the intensity or propulsion of groups like The Moaning or A Canorous Quintet but the sense of melody is about as strong, if not guided by more modern and/or raw influences.
If not for the slight resemblance of the first Dawn record (or alternately, The Black‘s ‘The Priest of Satan’) and some very successful melodic ideas throughout I don’t know that Aphelion would have stood out well enough to hold my attention. The standards for this type of melodic black/death music are quite high but I think the allowance for raw black metal is somewhat more forgiving than a comparison with the old classics of ye olde sub-genre fusion. ‘I’ shows a solid proof of concept and provides several distinct melodic ideas that play wonderfully in succession. Not all of the movements are purely memorable and there are no major surprises here but the whole piece in succession is sharp enough that I would be compelling to see where Aphelion goes with this sound next as they tweak things for their own taste and evolving abilities. The hope is that they don’t lose those big riffs (see: “Curses in Tongue”) that allow a warming break between the otherwise coldly melodic passages that define the listening experience. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Denizen of Derelict Practices” just in case you didn’t buy the Dawn references earlier and then jump over to “Cloak of Dying Light” for one of the more enjoyable progressions on the short tracklist.
Awakening, darkness is our light. 3.25/5.0
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