In my own experience theophany arrives through wonder, a naturally occurring gift of sight poured into those intuitively willing to respect and hallow the presence of the land. My own revelation came as early in life as 1990, as a child just old enough to wander alone in the woods nearby a week-long riverside encampment in Alsea Falls. Left to my own devices within natural boundaries of slope and river, a trail of evidence would lead from chewed and felled birch towards muddy tracks, the minor beginnings of a creature’s dam, and the lingering scent of an all but decomposed corpse. Scavengers had left the most important evidence downstream beyond the stench of rot — Teeth broken from the desiccated skull of a beaver, long scraped of flesh and strewn along the smoothed rocks of Fall Creek. The detective work itself was an early success of practical cognition and an awakened sense of natural spirituality that could be divorced from the reckless, tired and desperate demoralization Christianity fed to me from a young age. The reality of the cyclical, natural occurrence of death lifted me from a moment of empathetic mourning of horrid decomposition toward a personal worship of the bigger picture; Emotional or not, witnessed or unseen, all great forces of nature are constant and unerring. Whether you would consider it a divine spark or a disturbed child discovering scientific deduction, this experience was impossible to describe beyond rousing gnosis, a new revelatory awareness nurtured to this day. ‘Gnosis’ by the hands and lungs of Finnish black metal duo Aethyrick comes from a similar place of earthen deduction and perhaps even deeper ingrained connection of homeland, esoteric tradition, and a pointed pursuit of greater sight divined through dreamstates and involved ritual occult magick.
A shared uncommon knowledge of extreme metal, folk magic, and ‘western’ witchcraft would bring the duo of Gall and Exile together in creation of atmospheric and melodic black metal rooted in the traditions of the early 90’s and expressed by way of the more expansive language of modern atmospheric black metal techniques. Their impressive demo work was only slightly less ambitious than the two full-lengths since, resembling the sullen mystic strengths of auld-but-anew Finnish black metal with early Sargeist, ‘Opferblut’-era Satanic Warmaster threshing set nearby the ease of Blood Red Fog and/or Cosmic Church. Loose stylistic markers, sure, but warmly melodic layers of distraught keyboard work and evocative Scandinavian melodic devices made their second demo (‘Athanor of Sorcery‘, 2017) a notable feat alongside similarly inspired creation. I’d only bind myself arguing for both uniqueness and attributions to the old ways in terms of Aethyrick‘s debut full-length (‘Praxis‘, 2018) as they themselves would remark the intent is neither innovation nor retro-aiming art but rather a pointed resonance in a language the collaboration feels at home within. Though their sound design, ethos and modus are largely separate in identity the most reasonable comparison would be with the reawakened era of Czech black metal group Cult of Fire.
‘Epic’ rhythmic scope and grand-streaming wintry sorrow will feel distinctly Finnish as Aethyrick‘s movements grant their gripping spiritus to the willing and intuitive ear of the listener, wilting even the most hearty as ‘Gnosis’ begins. The cathedralesque organs rallying the finale of “Will Embodied” read to my senses as a diatribe from creator to creation, scowling upon the ‘free’ who’re yet encased and made mundane by their own mind’s fear of the unknown. A projection, interpretation, or figment of my own I’m sure. The greater weave of ‘Gnosis’ deals with dreamstates (“Oneiric Portals”), and a broader portrayal of the inner convulsions of men in unnatural environs with their innate humanity held aback. Unleashed by dark rituals and with embrace of naturalistic spirituality, the ease of ‘Gnosis’ will appear subtle in flow and form next to the increasingly intense narrative of ‘Praxis’ preceding it; This sets the ear upon atmosphere, triumphant but gently achieved, throughout the full listen. I’d still place the sensibility of the duos songwriting as vitally ‘melodic’ though I’d concede that this serves atmospheric presence just as much as it creates a directional voice for each piece, particularly the bustling movement of “Oneiric Portals” and “Golden Suffering.”
A pattern does form alongside time’s inheritance of familiarity and this is where ‘Praxis’ and ‘Gnosis’ conjoin upon a greater signature of built momentum, memorable melodic arc, spirited refrain, and the eventual keyboard enhanced ‘epic’ finale statement of each track. The effect is quite memorable once the scope of the album is achieved, creating smaller worlds within each track that begin to blend across full listens into consistent peaks and valleys defined primarily by textures introduced beyond the keystone rhythms separating each song. Far from the all-too-common methods of wistfully unshaped modern atmospheric black metal, Aethyrick will speak to the sensibilities of the 1990’s school of ‘variation on a theme’ focused riff-centric songwriting. It isn’t a revolutionary style or even the most memorable practical portrayal of that world but theme and fidelity go a long way to ensure a convincing and effective listen that sticks with the listener. Very high recommendation is due ‘Gnosis’ because it has served as one of the most remarkable ‘growers’ in the span of these last two months of listening. Aethyrick initially appeared to have taken a plainly iterative approach in applying deeper personal meaning while making slight improvements to their sound on this second album but, as I peeled back the layers of assumption, greater depth of meaning revealed itself with time.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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