AETHYRICK – Apotheosis (2021)REVIEW

Arbor intrat or, here enters the last witness of man’s madness in the form of a sole pine tree as he carries on shouting for the love of Grata Deum Matri in our burnt and loneliest mountain(s). Wherein we envision the axis of Cybele’s suffocation shifting a heaviest midwinter crown, seeing only black stars against a whirring white field as all gaseous nourish fails their golden ichor. She is wide-bosom’d and wriggling helplessly against the release of pierced lungs, a hapless and souring sight. We’ve long known, perhaps instinctively, that death to which we are powerless is in fact the highest point of human experience — The peak or, orgiastic climax of existence is a dramatic and cripplingly felt mortification that’d sorrow all surrounding devotee for years to come. It is an extreme that expands our boundaries, vision and capabilities despite the destruction felt in each wracking moment beyond the release of life. Slow thy darkened spiraling ‘self’ to feel it, match this resonance of death with stringed release and relish in the restorative power of mourning openly, perhaps loudly as if keening enough to reach the miles of dead ancestral stone cycling beneath into fire. We are wisened for this third-angled embrace but only despite traditional insistence of silence and reflection during this lowest and shortest arcing of Attis across the sky, we are wisened for the greater sorrow each year brings as a very natural, perhaps necessary doom spreads upon lands that’d never belonged to grievous humanity. Finnish melodic black metal duo Aethyrick are seeming spiritual consort to life’s systemic dissolution via directly emotional, tragically cinematic craft on their third full-length album ‘Apotheosis’ yet their modus is neither directly nostalgic nor cloyingly reminiscent. Instead the album’s quite modern and fulfilling atmospheric high finds the band reaching for a deepest stage of transcendental stargazing, an stream of liberation from start to finish that sits as fresh testament to the absolution that directly gripped grief provides.

Or, perhaps it is just an exceptionally fluid, “pretty”, and somber melodic black metal album of the Finnish variety. Aethyrick have always insisted in their one sheets that they’ve not reinvented the wheel or claimed to practice a new craft but, with all due respect for stoic Suomi modesty there is a uniquely charismatic, stylized vibrancy weaving its way through their stunning spiritual thread thus far. They are a duo snowbound by the winter solstice each year since 2016, perhaps owing this ritual of reflection to their observance of sub-genre niche traditions and the consistently beauteous implication therein. This has found masked and non-specifically credited musicians Gall and Exile serving as the sort of flagship emanation from Finnish extreme metal label The Sinister Flame these last three or so years and, for my own taste, a great success of melding ethereal atmosphere with wholly realized melodic ideas. Of course I’ve long been impressed by this project despite missing my chance to mention their debut full-length (‘Praxis‘, 2018) due to its late December release that year, nonetheless I’d found the follow up (‘Gnosis‘, 2020) strong enough to hit number 31 on my 100 Best of the Year list recently. What do they sound like? I suppose a description of ‘Apotheosis’ is a matter of nuanced iteration as Aethyrick haven’t changed drastically beyond their first couple of demos (later compiled as ‘Solstice Cycle‘ in 2019) where modernist Finnish atmospheric black metal edges and classicist inspiration glom onto each other to smooth and edge where appropriate. In terms of regionality, they do fit in somewhere in the ballpark of Blood Red Fog and the more seriously concieved Cult of Fire releases, as I’d referenced in the past, but this only suggests a highly melodic atmospheric black metal sound. An album like ‘Apotheosis’ could speak to what sensibilities a black metal fan might develop in admiration of earliest Ulver, certain Lunar Aurora releases or perhaps even Thy Serpent if accounting for Aethyrick‘s more sophisticated “modern” melodic arcana and tightly integrated keyboard/synth work. A tradition of natural texture, folkish sentimental motion, sophisticated Satanism, and their own sweetly polished motion spun from the apeiron.

Without any particular concern for melodic nuance, modulated synth choices, and finer detailed motif specific to each full-length one could easily put ‘Apotheosis’ on their turntable right after a spin of ‘Gnosis’ and find each either directly related or viably similar in patternation and tone. In fact each of their three records sits around ~40 minutes long and feature a conscious relation of forms that’d indicate their progression or, ideation unto the “divine”: Theory (or, process) in practice, knowledge of the sacred mysteries gained, and reaching this ultimate goal of freedom or deification of the self. Of course these terms (praxis, gnosis, apotheosis) are more ancient than their Christian implications and Aethyrick specifically direct this trilogy of developmental works within an occult or mystic Satanic context which reads in the lyrics (to me) as if Cimmerian description from a Homeric perspective. Though perhaps the “fun” of deriving this meaning from my own point of view might seem trivial, as the duo have described their perspective as Satanism from a distinctly European tradition when reading their interviews pertaining to natural magick in Bardo Methodology as well speaking to Satanism in depth within issue six of The Sinister Flame magazine. I suppose this ideology doesn’t have to mean anything to the average listener but lyrics serve not as “Satanic panic” porn but instead as a vessel for the conviction of the songwriters, bringing the mystique of ‘Apotheosis’ to reason and fullest potency. If we take this into consideration alongside rabid scanning of their prose then it could be said that ‘Gnosis’ was stewing in the stars in an effort to build ascendant knowledge and now ‘Apotheosis’ finds the most-refined scholar enacting a long prepared salvo of ritual. The process is seamless and again, if divorced from all meaning this is a very long-winded way of suggesting these two albums sound quite a bit alike at face value yet there is meaningful progression within the experience.

The bell-resonant starry eyed synth and softly climbing surrealistic entrance of “The Starlit Altar” is perhaps the song Aethyrick had been at work on perfecting since 2017 on their earliest demos and this immediately justifies the merging with the divine or, transcendental reach that the title of this album implies. It is an ascent that primes the entire experience, one of the first of six pieces to feature its own distinct melody-driven patternation. This sense of movement from one arena to the next, each more glorious than the last, is perhaps most freshened (in terms of sonic fidelity) and gloom-stricken (in terms of tonal progression) here than on previous releases. This is particularly noticeable thanks to their use of these ethereal atmospheric keyboards and folkish melodic black metal riff-driven pieces; As we approach “Flesh Once Divided” and “In Blood Wisdom” this jangling and swerving voice becomes a strongest but not completely overflowing improvement over ‘Gnosis’. The use of synth, something I know fans of recent Finnish black metal records such as ‘Fields of Sorrow’ will appreciate, becomes a truly elevating feature and pulls away from the experience being a plain “guitar album” in the best tradition of enlightened underground second wave atmospherics. Theme, modus, voicing, and melody all create interrelated parts that maintain the momentum of the full listen yet each piece has its own small hill to climb and this is the challenge of each Aethyrick album: Does the greater picture create enough movement or, simply billow like a great celestial cloud?

It would be fair to say that lofty billowing spectre is intentional, a trademark sensation, and a consistently strong key to the allure of this band. Though each piece of artwork commissioned by the band has captured the development of the flowing manna of Aethyrick‘s sound I would suggest this gorgeous, movement rich cover art from Timo Ketola (R.I.P.) is ideal, as if seen with a third sight for the spirit of the music. As it reaches towards its climax in the stars ‘Apotheosis’ becomes one great force of dream-like advance, a slow-dancing transformation that ramps like night-chilled smoke into greatest silvered resplendence as “With Determined Steps” threatens to be the great driving peak of the album, just before “Path of Ordeal” carries that momentum to the true head. Though it probably comes across vague or perhaps typical of Finnish black metal in my own description I’d still insist that ‘Apotheosis’ stands out quite strong amongst many others who simply manage raw approximations of Sargeist and Satanic Warmaster inspired guitar work rather than the complete and aesthetically brilliant ideation Aethyrick are quickly becoming known for. That said, it is an appropriately sized release that is specifically attuned to reward immersion and devotion to its movements. As much as it’ll gratify on a casual spin with somberlain pulses of surrealistic melodic black metal, ‘Apotheosis’ only truly ripens in atmospheric resonance when left to spin for hours on end as it creates a certain luxurious meditative quality. After countless hours with this record I can still say I’m yet prepared to enjoy it throughout the year just as ‘Gnosis’ proved itself a lasting sitting throughout 2020. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):The Sinister Flame
RELEASE DATE:January 22nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Melodic Black Metal,
Atmospheric Black Metal

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