APOGEION – Astrolatria I-Initiatio (2022)REVIEW

Daimon ab aethere, mors ab astris. — A natural philosopher’s diarized manifesto unfurls, a first chaptre wherein five revelations of daimonian interferences are scrawled in fever-warped, black-bloodied vellum. In glorification of daunting visions unobscured we are treated to the reveal of the truly ominous noumenon, wherein the corruption of the magicker by stellar radiation is itself the muse secured in a gut of alchemic imbibe. Accounts of horrifying possession, the animal awakened in man amidst visions of overwhelming astronomic forces creates deeply sensorial intoxication as this debut full-length from Finnish black metal duo Apogeion delves into the dirge of the psyche and shatters its current. ‘Astrolatria I: Initiatio‘ is the first of a planned trilogy of esoteric stargazing rituals, banking on the well-carved bones of obscure black metal traditions to brace their own captivating envision.

The corporeal reality of Apogeion as yet discoverable by actions limited to their formation as a duo somewhere around 2015, their stated Finland-based post, and stage names which invoke cryptic personae. The most, or, only key information to glean about the artists from their work is the shared ancient soul exuded in full within ‘Astrolatria I: Initiatio‘. That is to suggest colloquially that while some have ‘old’ souls these are ancient entities among us who’d carry obsessions with esoteric texts of alchemy, occult theorem, natural sciences, astrotheology and astrolatry in development of decidedly Finnish arcane black metal. There’ll be to reason to dance around the structural and aesthetic influence from Beherit‘s classic ‘Drawing Down the Moon‘ especially in terms of vocalist/drummer Urso Ænobarbus‘ cadence and spinal gathering of form up front but this is merely a point of launch rather than an all-consuming inspiration, throughout the course of this ~42 minute session they do achieve extreme tangent away from the naïve master-strokes of the early 90’s — stylistically and thematically.

As we gather the list of constellations mused upon and illustrated into arcs of prose and mythos throughout the full listen of ‘Astrolatria I: Initiatio‘ we naturally find this particular grouping contains many of the most key constellations to early medieval astrology and navigation. This isn’t such a profound thought on my part but it does provide some manner of setting for the text itself, presented in dark crimson text and illustration on vellum tinted pages with heavy use of (late) Middle English inflection to produce an enduring sense of diarized or poetic treatments, spells and observations from a natural philosopher of a certain era investigating the nature of the constellations, this might involved vague imagery of jackal ‘sorceled into flesh, possession by the vulture star as a form of alchemic animatism and so on. The important takeaway is that this is not only beautifully writ, evocative in irregular phrase, and well-illustrated in booklet but that cracking open this tome they’ve included builds intense value for the listening experience and matches quite well with the ominous atmospheric craft of the music, a wholly substantive event in and of itself.

Socking right into opener “I. Canis Maior i. e. Syrius” Apogeion provides us with the terror-stricken heartbeat of the record up front, a slapped-at aggression which introduces the mastery of rhythmic tension you’ll find throughout the full listen. The miasmic turns taken by the nuclear-yet-tempered guitar tone, hum with death-metallic distortion tempered to pulsate within this first song’s subtly nauseous grooves. The bass guitar performances are audible enough but suitable set at knee height in the mix, foundation for the weave of the rhythm guitar’s muscling about and the eye-level register of the keyboards. The sound design is that of a loosely rectangular space with pockets of depth allowed by corridors along its length, no sound is lost in the consistent presence of the album but its vocal effects and the eight foot or so distance of the drum kit allow for ominous, backward flowing eminence. The major foil of this recording is well established within what that first song reveals, “II. Antecanis i. e. Procion” lends a few Inquisition-esque grooves to that grinding, hypnotic sound and “III. Vultur Cadens i. e. Wega” developing the direct and blasting bestial side of their attack alongside the eerie, kosmiche keyboard work directly. This is one of my favorite aspects of the record wherein the pacing is dynamic enough to rescind yet still reads as aggressive. As the guitar tone rings through around ~3:55 minutes into that third song it speaks to the well-designed cohesion of elemental values in the mix. I would consider those first three songs the first act here, trivial as that distinction is there is a thread which runs through these pieces that comes to a head on the third song as their sound begins to sprawl and spark at once.

Necromancies detailed in encrypted speech. — The first of two ~10-12 minute closing pieces “IV. Alchameth i. e. Arcturus” trusts that the listener is immersed in the celestial wonderment and wrathful depictions Apogeion have delivered thus far, slowly building toward the bursting dementia at the core of the song and sustaining it for several minutes ’til dirge of this song clears ~5:49 minutes in, wherein clean guitars and growling accost gives way to possessed choirs and the disarray of the storming return. The devout 90’s Beherit, Mystifier, and even Demoncy fan should appreciate the array of guitar work available to this album thus far as Parasanctus wheels between mid-paced, doomed, and violently thrashed at barbarism with a finesse that is reserved for elder forms of black metal that’d still had a hint of death metal in their blood.

The tail of the beast, threshed loose. — “V. Cauda Capricorni i. e. Deneb Algedi” is the major thread, the piece to give pause on each listen with its destitute yet ethereal keys lingering their fog of dread across the epic conclusion of the record. This is where the radiation of Apogeion is strongest, at its most tragic and contemplative poignance despite the ritualistic savagery committed lyrically during the blasted-at sections. That dynamic is yes, admittedly a very classic yet under-served style of black metal which is rarely attempted with any insight beyond devotion. The major argument for ‘Astrolatria I: Initiatio‘ builds here, that this duo have taken ownership of alchemic bestial conjure under the shining black resonance of the cosmos and given it a wrathful yet enlightened personage. In most practical terms it is also a damned memorable and deeply immersed piece to end this debut with.

The average listener may very well encounter and identify style before substance in the case of ‘Astrolatria I: Initiatio‘, a black metal album with at least a couple of nods to underground greats in its genetic expression, yet the substance here is deeply considered, artfully crafted, and this lends a peculiar yet appropriately esoteric voicing to their work. Apogeion introduce themselves as bristling with menacing character, wide-eyed in their exploration of cosmic horrors and pouncing upon the ear with vitality of movement and subject alike. It is rare to find such a well considered, finely edited stream of conscious thought set upon a debut full-length without prior precedence and in this sense they’ve made a particularly glorious and deeply worthy debut statement. The standard is set high and I cannot wait to be pulverized by what comes next. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Astrolatria I: Initiatio
LABEL(S):Northern Heritage
RELEASE DATE:November 1st, 2022


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