“Many the monsters nursed / by the earth, a burden of dread, / the arms of the deep are alive with creatures / of death, they draw near, / lights grow and glow in the sky, / in mid-air one might tell / of winged things and things that crawl on the earth, / caught up in the wrath of the storm.” Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers
κατά το χρεών — After spending countless hours with each of French avant-garde black metal artist Asthâghul‘s releases under his solo project, Esoctrilihum, the hubris of “making sense” of impassioned chaos becomes akin to alphabetizing the library of a dead colleague, to what end and for whom? It is for the sake of myself that I order within my mind the emotionally-guided auric sensation of this fellow’s music like a puzzle rather than simply feel it. If I were to instead debase the artist down to miasmic instinct of creation and find a common intellectual purpose, the motion of the pen is often mightier and more completely satisfying than the prophecy or philosophy it illustrates. What results fulfills the artist, if only temporarily, and the performative aspect of public monetization is likely an unexpected bonus beyond all of the pecking that the ‘prey’-minded consumer insists upon. That is to say that the ranting, gushing and austere blustering hand of these surreal works are detailed for the sake of a fulfilling the mosaicist’s ear for detail and atmosphere, there isn’t necessarily a hidden current or unfathomable trick beneath the hood of his seeming tireless engine of ornate, colorfully savant work. We enter into his sixth full-length album, ‘Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath‘, dropped right into a function-obsessed space that presents no fanfare or wily pandering to the audience as the artist grinds through elaborate, hallucinatory visions which he now renders a couple of releases beyond mastery of “metal” instrumental bounds. Indebted to death, let remembrance cut through us as compensation.
The fifth album would normally be the perfect time to muse over developed insignia, moderate the pros-and-cons of stylistic growth, and decide where things might’ve gone awry for the listener’s own taste yet Esoctrilihum don’t warrant this sort of biographical review beyond noting the breakthrough of ‘The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods‘ (2019) and the leap beyond of ‘Eternity of Shaog‘ (2020) which I’d reviewed with more than enough detail. For the newcomer already lost, rewind back to 2019 and start at the apex of the project’s black/death metal avant-garde heroism and be shattered by the contrasting musical virtues of ‘Eternity of Shaog‘, perhaps the most profound statement by the artist to date for the sake of its coherence and elaborate yet patient songcraft. That previous album had introduced heavy use of violin, dialed up synth and even piano for the sake of expanding the artist’s own oeuvre and it was magic, which I’d of course left off my ‘best of 2020’ list in error, overlooking it simply because I’d deign to push the limits of what information I can process. Most artists would need breathing room after such an achievement yet the ideas continue to flow downward, this could help us understand the connection between artist and art on a deeper level. Not only is the momentum of creation a powerful drug for this fellow, Esoctrilihum represents an entity of endless modulation for the artist; There will always be another bend in the road and, in this case ‘Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath’ might’ve rushed around the corner too quickly but, each new stylistic curvature consistently opens new horizons to revel within.
Complexity vexes minds that are infirmed by their own wasteful, untrained will. The need for brevity, summary, and easily digested information becomes an illness that cannot be fought off without this sort of artist. Asthâghul‘s touch is perhaps no more detailed than the most ambitious electronic music composer, using a bursting number of notes and movements to present vignettes of mood and atmosphere that are clear about their demographic no matter how ‘avant-garde’ or chaotic the project’s jib becomes. For this particular album the mood swings within generally range from magisterial symphonic black metal plunges to black/death metal havoc yet these only wheel into resemblance of traditional extreme metal forms when the artist is comfortable enough that the atmosphere presented is the key actor. We cannot easily apply these forms to the “classical” music impulses of western popular music because, in the case of this album, the tempo map does not present traditionally structured pieces, at least not compared to those of ‘Eternity of Shaog’. Doomed and claustrophobic marches, roaring fantasy synth fanfare, sweeping sections of three or four swings at a violin lead melody, and oppressively blasting black/death battery all land as readable elements when mashed into one piece simply because each serves a greater immersive purpose, a sense for the dramatic captivation the listener might feel. You will have to decide whether this finds you in resignation of the chaotic nature of it all or, in acceptance of the whole feat as a sort of blissful showering of violently blended sonic notions. If this has your head swimming, good, because the only comparable sensation to that of Esoctrilihum‘s work lies within psychedelia, improvisational music, and experimental electronic/noise artistry. You’ll need to adapt to its intoxicating effect.
As an avid live music attendee and too-long quarantined listener my taste begins to veer towards ‘possible’ and tangible music, what would work in a live setting for its acoustic values or that which I can imagine and delight in the physicality of. The difficult “ask” of ‘Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath‘ is that it demands a surrealistic high-fantasy immersion to produce its ideal psychotropic effect right from the start if we consider the symphonic/keyboard glimmer of “Ezkikur” and its eternally tumbling drumming. The artist paints boldly with both real and unreal elements, retaining a personal, ‘amateur’ touch whilst severing the body from the head, a grand croaking daimonian presence vomiting its decree atop dramatic and quivering keys and barking away any sensation of disbelief. Being a bit too obsessed with the works of Abigor and Blut Aus Nord over the years certainly prepares a fellow for this kind of piece and brings us back down to earth in terms of structured work yet the final third of this opening piece and its folkish, flute-floating and blasting fade-out nonetheless provides some ease to the pretentious nature of avant-garde black metal expectations. There are essentially three acts arranged in descent that take place across the ~78 minute run of this album and this first act is naturally the bearer of new fruition, the well-placed and most compelling melodic detail the full listen has to offer alongside some slower-paced pieces. “Salhn” and “Tyurh” bring fantastic hooks, easy pace, glorious use of synth and violin, basically the bells-and-whistles are all in for this incredible frontispiece for the greater experience. “Baahl Duthr” brings us to the peak of this rock beat and unforgettable melodic lead, a sort of dark metal piece that has all of the alluring romanticism of the mid-90’s. The gradual descent into brutality is difficult to see as these pieces become increasingly jammed with lush sounds, cathartic melodic turns, and impressive performances.
“Dy’th” is intentionally the point of severance, invoking death and surveying the brutality this project is capable of. If this is where the album wakes up for your taste, jet back to their 2018 and 2019 releases for further exploration and context. With the exception of the 5+ minute astral synth interlude of “Craânag” this second half of the experience reminds us that ‘The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods’ remains just as important a part of the holistic Esoctrilihum experience as what came beyond. “Nominès Haàr” is the one song that kept me coming back to Sides C and D for its cohesion with the first half of the full listen and a few ideas I hadn’t heard before. The rest of the second LP begins to read as a somewhat tedious, maddening second phase still within this three act structure, shockingly different than the opening moments of the album but offering a reasonable enough gradient of stylistic change for the apt progressive black metal listener. The mind-halting moments of illusory beauty, such as hitting the 4:00 minute mark on “Tyurh” for the first time, which had done so much great work to draw me into a fervor of fealty soon began to wear off as the album pushed somewhat needlessly beyond the hour. Though I am all for embracing excess as often as possible, the context of purpose or statement has yet to reveal the need for the full ~78 minute run.
With my analysis left to fester and blur on its own backburner, the listening experience itself warrants some examination as the clangorous and stark loudness that comes from a notably abrasive render (compared to ‘Eternity of Shaog’) works well when it comes time for synth-heaviness and all guns blazing black metal fullness. The trade-off is that the death metal centric pieces fall a bit flat with the drumming landing driest on “Dy’th”. I could see this being an admirable characteristic, along with the vile and poisonous spit of the vocals, in hindsight but the full listen was nonetheless uneven from my point of view. So, as promised, my thoughts are running loose in terms of ‘Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath’ where any evaluation or valuation cannot seem to escape the realization that I’d liked the prior album a bit more. Pushing beyond this tic of preference in context of a discography, it is actually a fine record from a remarkably efficient artist and I so appreciate that it feels of its own world. As soon as I’d stopped trying to trace pathways within the inexorable climes of Esoctrilihum and resigned to it as a ride-along, the sooner I was inclined to appreciate the packed and unpretty wound that ‘Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath’ is. A high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath|
|LABEL(S):||I, Voidhanger Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 21st, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
|GENRE(S):||Progressive Black Metal,|
Avant-Garde Black Metal
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