Sepulkrustacean Reviews Apologoethia’s Pillars
Since the 90’s, the Nordic and Swedish models of black metal’s second wave have served as the pillars upon which the genre has stood. From the frostiest of Mayhem and Burzum worship to the post rock and ambient influenced new school bands, all of them would not be here if not for the controversy and carnage of big names that are now household requirements to metal. However from the late 80’s onward to today, there were always those who hearkened back to ideals and a time before the wintery ambience and reductive riffing that came to define the genre fully took hold. Classic Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Mortuary Drape, Mystifier, Sarcofago, Amen Corner, early Samael, the first few Rotting Christ albums, Varathron, Necromantia and other purveyors of primitive evil made it clear that there was a hidden history and tradition to the genre missed by your average Marduk and Emperor wannabes. Today, the first wave style is exemplified by groups like Inconcessus Lux Lucis, Cultes des Ghoules, Negative Plane, Verberis, Henosis, Sartegos, Mongrel’s Cross, Force of Darkness, Doombringer, Obsequiae and others who continue to prove that primitive heritage doesn’t need to result in backwards music. Joining them with a short but worthwhile four song album (EP?) is Apologoethia with a particularly diverse range of influences and highly versatile style bound to both amaze and confuse listeners this year.
Apologoethia’s sound, like many from the previously mentioned style of black metal, is an interesting mishmash of concepts from the traditional heavy metal, thrash, death, and doom that both coexisted with black metal and served as its genetic forerunners. While most black metal bands would minimize their overt characteristics, the first wave openly celebrated and repurposed their most notable features for a more malevolent form of metal than what they were then capable of. On Pillars, this becomes especially notable with just how many styles and traditions they utilize. From marching background crunch chords and arching tremolo leads will weave around one another to sudden moments of tapping guitar leads and d-beat backed semi rollicking riffing, they can’t be faulted for a lack of variety, something they lace with eerier psychedelic melodies that stretch and loom over their vicious rhythm section and the abyssal gurgling snarls, tinged with just the right amount of reverb, that calmly observe the unfurling madness beneath. The album is ritualistic in the sense that the mood evoked is that of hallowed intensity buttressed by the fever pitch pacing of the music and moments of darkly meditative texture that use simple but easily distinguishable melody to structure harmony, even using synths at a few points to further this effect.
However when balancing so many differing characteristics together, at times the band loses a bit of their own identity in exchange for those of older metal genres. The flipside of their strength in so much variety is that at times Pillars can sound too familiar and disjointed in how it implements its immense list of influences. At times they struggle to tie together individual portions of songs in their transitions; new ideas simply happen in a blunt sense, exploding out of familiar patterns carried along less so by songwriting logic and moreso by raw energy. To an extent it does cover up for their faults, but with how much they’re balancing on their shoulders it can at times sound less like a unified project as much as a repository of old riffs that were hastily bolted together. However when they hit their high notes and ride with them the wrath and might they bring to bear is unstoppable, something they more or less perfect on “Pillar III (De Absentiae Vitae)” unlike the two tracks prior. There’s not a whole lot of repetition on this album as well; riffs that appear once make their impact known and when repeated, it is only to serve as bridges for additional ones that build on (or simply break out of) what they were building up. I wouldn’t quite call it narrative in the sense of bands like Axis of Advance circa Strike or The Chasm in most cases; over-arching themes can be hard to discern at points but they do guarantee songs at least avoid predictable patterns and can vigorously storm through quite a bit of ground.
So while this definitely is a flawed album or EP (really leaning towards the latter here), it is a strong demonstration of their capabilities even in spite of their glaring flaws. Sounding a bit like a rawer, less proggy take on the first Negative Plane album, Pillars appears mysterious and esoteric at a glance, but behind the reverb and occultism lies a feral monstrosity whose abrupt creativity and aggression are both its greatest strength and weaknesses. There’s enough crushingly heavy riffiness and strange juxtapositions to satisfy modern day black metal hordes, though it’s clear that it might be some time before Apologoethia figure out what to do with the massive range of ancient weaponry they have at their disposal. For now this is a strong sign that the ideal of the first wave is neither dead nor redundant; the past is still alive and it is ravenously hungry.
3.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Pillars is out November 24th on Invictus Productions.