The blackened-death duo return with a new name, a new album, and a new sound.
Many groups go through stages of being active, and inactive, leaking small creations and new projects every few months to tease their audience and fan-base. Every glimpse of them is a treat, and opportunity to hear the newest concoctions from these sound alchemists who spend their days in a studio, tinkering with sounds and various melodies until something appears as a winner, taking them into the next phase of their musical timeline. With Itheist — the opposite can be said. It wasn't a logical next step. There was no smooth transition. Aetherium Mors, the Melodic-Death, and Black Metal outfit from England, after fourteen years as their former group, underwent a metamorphosis, returning from the depths as a Blackened-Death duo with a re-imagined sound, and a realistic message stemming from the tempered discipline of Satanic axioms. Their self-titled first offering is the subject at hand today.
Creeping in with the howling of the winds of mayhem, Outcast is a highly disharmonious offering that shares some minor likeness in both imagery, and sound, to Behemoth's legendary The Satanist. Slow and ominous, it carries listeners from octave to octave, in a high to low persistent pattern that is bound to intrigue metalheads who have loved the recent history of Black Metal offerings to make it big. Sampling in an inspired fashion, while never seeming derivative, Dan Couch, and Kane Nelson have stumbled upon a territory where giants roam, and it's apparent from the first track.
Mighty Father of Rebellion, and Guardian of Baphomet, the second and third chapters in our trip through Luciferian lore are rhythmically similar, and experiment with rapid speed changes for both members. The sound of isolated tremolo collides against a wall of snare and double-pedal, echoing into a cavernous expanse where no light escapes from. Solo work plays an impressive part in what stands out here, especially with the smooth, and virtually seamless scales that dance up and down at both ends of the second track. The same can be heard in its immediate successor, as Kane's vocals hiss forth with some staggering clarity and enunciation. Few harsh vocalists ever achieve such a level of audibility, and it should be noted that in this instance, at every level of volume, and speed, he never loses the words beneath the growl, gurgle, or wail.
Of all of the finer elements that are endangered in the current Black Metal scene, one of the most regrettable is the lack of piano. It is this reviewer's humble opinion that it goes hand-in-hand with the duality of the dark beauty beneath the genre's extreme exterior, and thankfully, it's importance is not lost on Itheist. Horned One, the middle marker on this trip, begins with a haunting, and refreshing piano solo that bleeds away into the familiar chaos of a booming verse that once again, could fit right in between the pages of The Satanist. This track is the meat of this album's power, and something the group can really stand tall knowing they recorded. It's powerful, features a choral section that can go toe-to-toe with Symphonic Metal classics, and manages to pull it back for the conclusion with an exceptional Melodic Death bridge that takes us back to their early days, and a time before the transformation. For all of the Aetherium Mors fans who mourned the loss of the group, there is little doubt that this will be a welcome throwback to less than a decade ago.
Featuring both technical drumming and a flair for the classic Black Metal sounds that the Norwegian pioneers themselves laid down, Neter Amon is another blast-beat titan that will be remembered. Mystical chords sing beneath a river of drum fills that showcase a comprehensive mastery of multiple genres, as well as the room for potential evolution in a scene that is commonly associated with only a single decade of sound. The real treasure in this is a surprisingly clear inhale, and a scream that'll make the hair on listeners arms stand on end. It's black magic.
Itheist has a new name, a fresh coat of paint, and an enjoyable, original sound that reminds this reviewer of similar strong offerings from a music scene desiring new blood. This new style of hybridized Black Metal cares little for what is considered ‘trve’ and plays only for what sounds kill. They're not afraid to muddy the waters if it means combining a seldom-used medium, and they definitely aren't swayed by the lo-fi appeal — instead opting for excellent dynamic range that isn't concerned by the much debated ‘loudness wars’. This is a group with a lot of history, starting fresh in a world that is seemingly ready for them at last, and if you haven't noticed: Satan is clearly on their side.
FFO: Deathspell Omega, Behemoth, Gorguts, Carcass