Portland, Oregon-based black metal trio Eosphoros take an even deeper early second wave paganistic black metal turn here on their second album, an act not unprecedented considering the style of Eosphoros (2018), still rendered with some moderate focus on an early Scandinavian folk-metallic sense of movement yet aiming for a more scarring set of acts this time around. This manifests per suggested influences from Isvind‘s 90’s output, the rarified arc of Panphage, and spurts of melodic interest you’ll find on certain Arckanum records. Though my personal reference was something like ‘Mellom Skogkledde Aaser‘ per the previous album in ballparking thier sound, this sophomore album is perhaps most sonically comparable to the ethic of something like ‘Dark Waters Stir‘. This is especially true if we consider sound design with emphasis heavy-set upon coldly ringing guitar tones scourged to a demo-level scald in caustic envelope of downward-scowling vocals. An somewhat obscured, potentially programmed (?) drum presence (by way of Andrew Lee) allows for these key points of statement in guitar melodies and rhythms to speak loudest while managing to direct the unleashed nature of Eosphoros‘ arrangements, which tend towards states of droning abysm (“The Hunter”, “To Return”) and insightfully set melodic movement which is gloriously pervasive in its entrench. The only too-strong placement here is perhaps the occasionally over prominent sustain of the bass guitar movements which accentuate the distorted nature of the rhythm guitars but interrupt the ringing harass of slower pieces, such as “Tempest” and certain parts of “Mycelium”.

Fair enough, though, these are admittedly generalizations and likenesses which melt their way out of the periphery within the full listen as coldly galloping tones shift and the greater focus of the full listen builds. As was the case with the previous album these compositions eventually individualize in mind to some strong degree, though I’d (again) suggest not anticipating pure iteration in terms of the aggression and tone of ‘II’, which reads more intentionally mayhemic and dissociated without losing Eosphoros‘ tuneful, folkish pure black metal locus. Though their sound design is somewhat different, quieter and in a dulled light, the core duo have carried over their considerable songwriting experience and taste in magnitudes here, mindfully writing in a variety of modes and simpler rhythmic movements which entertain far beyond the usual variations on a theme. In this sense ‘II’ this is a record more in step with true underground black metal, not that their first album wasn’t but there is something to be said for an abrasive do-it-yourself statement which speaks more clearly to a most pure ideation of black metal as an elitist, non-commercial act.

Catching my ear and holding it isn’t such a challenge under these parameters in theory yet without fine guitar work I’d have likely taken in ‘II’ as another corpse on a burning pile of backwards looking, forwards moving black metal art of the last ten years. There is actual songcraft in hand here and it is worth championing Eosphoros‘ treatment of the guitar driven black metal song throughout the experience. “Til Hel” isn’t the first neck-clutching moment on the tracklist but perhaps the most universally readable bout of melodic inspiration up front and it comes in fairly succinct terms at under four minutes, following up on the reaching lilt of album opener “Tempest” with a more lucid strike at memorable melody driven statement. From there we transition into still above-average territory with the ruinous opening riff of “Destroyer of the Storm Sun” and the far more ‘heavy metal’ bolster of “Gallows Harvest” immediately after. The handful of longer, somewhat slower pieces here work just as well for the most part yet only “Mycelium” really stuck in mind after each listen and this despite the earlier Taake-sized opus of “The Hunter” being impressive otherwise.

If seeking a peaceful, pleasurable skate through black metal’s most modern dullard sheen you’ve stumbled upon the exact wrong abysm. A bit ugly in its voice yet somewhat florid in its most potent statements ‘II’ relishes in its cacophonic state in the best tradition of classic black metal yet it insists on a certain level of primitivity to a fault, not getting it exactly right to the point of making it their own but just enough that the experience is a notably memorable. Eosphoros‘ work yet admittedly sticks to first for its fealty to ancient standards and second by way of well written pieces — from my perspective that is a rare bit of worthy luminance (er, compliment given) within a craft hardly known for such standards and priorities. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Altare Productions
RELEASE DATE:April 8th, 2022

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