January 8, 2010 | , | 3.5

Aetherius Obscuritas, Black Medicine

Aetherius Obscuritas: Black Medicine

The last time I heard Aetherius Obscuritas, it was on their 2007 assault, Viziok. While the band is still essentially a one man show with Arkhorrl taking on all the recording duties, he’s once again rolled with a live studio drummer for Black Medicine. Yet, that’s where our comparison ends between the two albums.

Sure, this latest effort is still black metal to the core, but it brings in a wide range of other genres that helps the music grow into a dynamic beast of an album. The album as a whole is much less desolate feeling than its predecessor, branching out into more dark melodies, song structure and a little more groove. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t any furious, blackened blasts of evil — they’re still there. It’s just that Arkhorrl has put in a great deal of effort to break out of a genre that can devolve into formulaic and predictable (including a couple of covers of Marduk and Running Wild).

First Breath
Tortured screams echo in the distance as melancholy guitars come in to start off the album. The pace picks up rather quickly, but with a restrained blasting — it’s not quite full on, rapid fire drumming. Layered vocal ranges immediately give the song some depth. The slowdown around the one minute mark gives the song a moment to breathe before building back up slowly through raw vocals and beefy riffs. There’s a good deal of tempo and mood changes in this near-five minute long song.

The End (The Predicted Fall Version)
“The End” is a two minute track that features melancholy guitar tones, steady rhythms and a deeper growl along with Arkhorrl’s normal mid-range screams. The overall feel of the song is much more malignant and darker than the album opener. My only complaint with this song is that it’s too short. I definitely want to hear more!

Black Medicine
The title track starts off with thick, slow moving riffs and some keyboard work to build up the atmosphere. The slower pace is ominous and bleak, but features some nicely timed frantic blasts to keep it from getting too slow. The galloping riffs and rhythms after the two minute mark is great and will have you snapping tendons in your neck in no time. This one ends abruptly, leaving you drooling for more, as well.

Passed Out of Site – Passed Out Of Mind
The guitar tones to “Passed Out” are dripping with sickly malevolence and desperation as the slower pace pushes you along for the first 40 seconds or so before erupting into a violent blast of tortured vocals and drums. The layered vocals are dark and choral like, adding to the darkness. There are some decent vocal utterances that actually have a little groove to them as the vocals trade from mid range shrieks to deeper, more guttural growls. The staggered guitar work around the three minute mark had me believing we’d be treated with some blackened, jazzy destruction, but the band shifts back into a more traditional black metal assault.

Freezing Embrace
After that five minute plus monstrosity of a song, the band shifts gears to a song that starts off rather tame with acoustic melodies and a lighter atmosphere before grabbing you by the nape of the neck and forcing your head beneath the surface of an angry, churning sea of bludgeoning riffs and bruising drums. Now, if that ain’t a run-on sentence, I don’t know what it. At any rate, Aetherius Obscuritas deliver some memorable riffing, groove and evil with “Freezing Embrace” that will leave you itching for more, especially with each thundering blast and tortured scream.

Grim Smile
A little blackened death n’ roll gets “Grim Smile” off to a decent pace with catchy vocal deliveries and groove. The layered screams/growls are a nice touch, adding a decent bit of depth to the song as the rhythms blister and the guitars shred in one of the lighter toned and more “fun” songs. This song is a prime example of how Arkhorrl is looking to branch out with his music.

The Black Tormentor Of Satan
Here’s a Marduk cover for your enjoyment. I’m not wholly familiar with the original so I cannot compare the two, but this song is pretty sweet nonetheless.

The Moon Shield
A little bass work and soaring guitars set a completely different mood for “The Moon Shield.” It’s much lighter toned and more open than a majority of the album — even when the blasting fury arrives. The cleanly sung vocals are an interesting touch that further separates it from the rest of the songs. The twangy bass has a more prevalent role throughout the rest of the song, as well. At first the backing power metal vocals were a bit off-putting, but the more I listen to this song, the more I think they add to the song. Great touch.

Circinus Nebulae
“Circinus Nebulae” gets back to the band’s roots of black metal, but with a more open, melodic tone. There are a good number of layers filling the speakers throughout the song. This song reminds me of another band that I reviewed in the past year or so, but can’t put my finger on it. I’m sure it will come to me in the middle of the night after posting this review. Either way, this is a killer track.

In The Wake Of A Remain Footprint
This criminally short instrumental really showcases Arkhorrl’s musical skills. It would have served as a nice outro had it not been for the band’s cover of Running Wild’s “Black Demon.”

Black Demon
Speaking of the cover… here it is. Enjoy.

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