Review: Cult of Erinyes – Æstivation

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Here comes a late year surprise, straight out of Belgium. Hold my TP, I’m going in.

It’s the holidays and shouldn’t this be a time of lights and joy? Cult of Erinyes didn’t think so and released one of the darkest albums this year. I’m almost sad that it released this late, because it definitely would have found a place on my year-end list.

Formed in 2009 and recently picked up by Amor Fati Productions, Æstivation is their newest full-length and a Christmas present of pure darkness. They call their style Ritualistic Black Metal, which is fitting: haunting soundscapes and melodies, plenty of reverb and distortion create an ambiance that is crushing but at the same time ruthlessly riveting. The riffing is tight, but it won’t win any contests. But in general, the instrumentation, while absolutely superb for what it wants to do—create atmosphere—is almost supplemental.

The vocals on this album are outstanding. From spoken, enchanting passages, to screams of raw fury, new vocalist Déhà does it all. The screams sometimes even reach screeching qualities, which outright frightened me. He makes torment and passion tangible, as if he is a human conduit for chaotic darkness itself. The primal brutality on display here is nothing short of astounding.

Where the album also shines is in its diversity and creativity. While the premise of 44-minutes of dark atmospheric black metal definitely sounds like a recipe for boredom (and many bands in this genre have fallen into this pit), Cult of Erinyes keeps it fresh. Through clever use of synths, samples, calmer sections, drone influence and dissonance, they keep surprising the listener throughout and you’ll keep finding new details in subsequent listening sessions.

The production sometimes seems a bit thin though, it could have been thicker which would have helped the oppressing and overwhelming atmosphere even more, but it’s not a big deal in the whole picture. Also, knowing how fickle black metal fans can be when it comes to production, you might even prefer it this way. It is an eternal point of contention.

If there is one word I would use to describe this album, it’s immersive. From the cover art and instrumentation to the vocals, it transports the listener to cold dark halls where a master of ceremonies screams or sometimes speaks incantations before a sacrificial altar—you can’t help but be entranced. It’s a well-crafted blend of rawness, melody and dark ambiance. Æstivation is a 44 minute-long savage dark ritual that you should definitely check out when you get tired of the holiday spirit and long for the darkness you’re indulging in the rest of the year.

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Æstivation was released on December 21st 2019 through Amor Fati Productions. You can grab a copy at Bandcamp or Amor Fati’s own store.

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