Cursing the superior laugh of a voyeur ‘God’ as you are buried alive in the nutrient void soil of absurd existence. Prophesying the dried and dead houses of rule over men as the air you breathe and the water within soon melts into seemingly ironic bodily rebellion, a cascade of apoptosis rallied against the tyrant consciousness that wills flesh unwilling to sustain it. Death scratches and claws within internalized, callous thoughts and so wrings the blood from the aching self-effaced flesh that it torments. The luxuriously refined poetic voice that drives Périgueux, France based atmospheric/post-black metal trio Aodon into tattered yet majestic ruin reads as if it were developed as tool of will beyond observation, a sword or brush so confident in its fine lines that the imagery is too real, disturbing and relatable to those who’d much rather turn away. This second full-length release from the band, ‘11069’, is the first to reach beyond the boundaries (and limitations) of the originally self-driven project from songwriter, drummer, vocalist, lead guitarist, and recording engineer M-Kha (Silure, ex-Blodorn) who’d proven plainly capable and insightful on Aodon‘s debut (‘Sharphood‘, 2016). Expansion, collaboration, and a celestial hand of refinement offer a great leap of artistry on this follow-up release where distinction finds the freshly realized trio afire.
No doubt you’ve spat out your lunch at the mention of post-black metal yet this tag should primarily indicate something out of the ordinary slinging from the hands of Aodon‘s guitarists in terms of both modern atmospheric black metal and the established typification of post-black metal ideals. ‘Sharphood’ was an album without such pointed character in its voicing, there were surely keen black/death rhythms and forward thinking ideas pulled from celestial atmospheric black metal and dark metal but M-Kha had not found the spear of lead guitar melodies and the targaid of more complex drum patternation that’d drive ‘11069’ into form between 2016 and 2019. In the interim it is clear the focus was upon technique, dynamic, and some spirited collaboration with the new line-up to add polish to M-Kha‘s central vision. As a lapsed but still slightly competent student of the French language the lyrics from bassist Alix R. were quite a rare event for my own modus as I’d immediately been drawn to their striking poetic nature, something far and above the typical amateur prose of underground extreme metal, vigilant in the actual motion created by each stanza yet meaningfully laced alongside the moody and triumphant existential collapse of ‘11069’ otherwise. When considering music that ‘speaks for itself’ in the case of Aodon the lyrics for this album speak beyond the self, enhancing the greater experience of the album and not serving as a plain afterthought draped over the instrumentals like a blanket over a soiled couch.
The most crucial angle I could prepare would suggest that the expressive and intensely active pulse of ‘11069’ is post-black music apart, something richly executed that is neither aping structures and tonality from indie rock nor relying upon jigsaw slices of post-rock standards for invention. I do not hear fealty sworn to old “core”, classic black metal, or any traditional mindset and instead hear slight Krallice-esque tirades in the darker corners of Aodon‘s presentation alongside some of the glistening soreness of early Wolves in the Throne Room but instead I’d suggest ‘11069’ is stoically modern, a record created without any great service owed for its larger inspiration. You could point to anything from Sinmara‘s angular melodicism, Fluisteraars‘ avant-moderne lilt and Obsidian Tongue‘s billowing scathe for modern comparisons but nothing about this record reads as if it were meant to fit in or maintain anyone else’s status quo. That isn’t to say there is nothing accessible or standard-bearing about the eight monstrously fluid songs within, which express a forlorn but ‘epic’ spectacle as their journey streams forth an engaging and emotionally driven listening experience.
“Les Rayons” is a strong opening piece in that it introduces the broader strokes of what language Aodon are speaking this time around, and I’m not literally referencing the shift to French lyrics but rather the abrupt bursts between swooning melodic guitar leads and lushly realized pockets of ache. Pushing for more than the feint edges of yearning one would typically glean from atmospheric black metal, “L’infime” (and “L’ouevre” before it) spout fully soured rips of the soulful indignation that melodic black metal fans often seek ad infinitum. The ‘post-‘ of their post-black metal sound is obviously there but not without aggression and never delivered as if an obnoxious tonally dependent hurl of smoky atmospherics, but rather a full blend of atmospheric, lightly dissonant, and lead guitar driven movements. Does aggressive, tightly performed and sharply recorded drum work negate the traditions of atmospheric black metal? That’ll depend on your education of the vast modern lineage of the overstuffed sub-genre and its thousand-eyed reality but in my case it adds an incredible dimension to the full listen and encourages rapt focus upon the moments that Aodon consistently create. It might appear absurd that refinement of technique could serve as a point of distinction for a modern black metal release, especially an ‘atmospheric’ one, but the relationship between each instrument matters a great deal when the structures are this exacting, emotion is presented rather than presumed because of such professional clarity.
If Side A could be seen as thrilling introduction to Aodon‘s fresh eyes upon duality, resilience, and morbidity then Side B is an immersive turn towards dark metaphysical wonders. “L’instinct” speaks with a loud voice, as if commanding the Earth to collapse from the comfort of another celestial body. The damned, the reborn, the shaking limbs of those now fully aware of apocalypse impending reverberate great anxiety beneath the increasing thunder of this second half of the album. Of course the intended result of the described and alluded to events of Side B has been staring you in the face the whole time — The dissolving ‘self’ on the cover artwork from surrealist Ludovic Robin was carefully prepared to implicate the dissolution of man, the rebirth of all else, and the wounds of the natural world that’d never heal. My own attempted delineation aside, “L’illusion” is an incredible piece that arrives just when it seems Aodon have made the bulk of important statements on this ~48 minute album. The momentum is capitalized upon with closer “Le parfum des pluies”, among the finer pieces of ‘11069’ yet that’d be the point where I’d felt at least one song might’ve been omitted from the tracklist for the sake of honing in a bit. Being about 4-5 minutes too long isn’t such a crime when some of the bigger names in atmospheric black metal are releasing hour-long records this year but for my own specific taste the album lands just about right in terms of length and upheld engagement.
This second impressive work from Aodon raises the standard far beyond the somewhat average expression of their first album and though that is a good enough sort of “thumbs up” on my end I don’t think it is as much of a breakthrough for the listener so much as it is for the musicians involved. The vision is clearly realized and the perceived voice of ‘11069’ is engaging enough yet this recording suggests what Aodon are now capable of is broadening fast and that they’ve even bigger creations in store if this standard is upheld, or surpassed. The next dimension could double down on the techniques here, or perhaps even evolve beyond post-black metal currency, and in that sense I think Willowtip have picked this band up at just the right time. A high recommendation, especially if you’re in tune with forward-thinking black metal clusters in France, the Netherlands, and North America.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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