It’s not often that AMG Himself and I get into an online kerfluffle1 about a review. See, I do my best to grab promos from bands I’ve never heard of, hoping that my curiosity turns me on to some great music. For the most part, it succeeds. But there comes a time when Señor AMG gets a taste of a band you’re reviewing and goes completely ga-ga over it. Greece’s Aenaon is one such band, and Hypnosophy, their third album, triggered his penchant towards the progressive and bizarre. And I can see why he wanted to get his mitts on this, as Hypnosophy is an entrancing album.
Things start off innocently enough for the first few seconds of “Oneirodynia,” with spacious guitar arpeggios bleeding into a ferocious blastbeat, with frontman Astrous bellowing and cackling maniacally. Then the saxophones arrive. Yep, much like Sigh and fellow countrymen Hail Spirit Noir, Aenaon sometimes veer so hard into left-field they are in another ballpark entirely, yet it all works. Also benefitting the song are the sung vocals of guest Giorgos Papagiannakis, who sounds like a sinister Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus), elevating the song to scary heights during the pre-solos while drummer Nycriz flails away like a beast behind him. For the entirety of the song’s seven-minute duration, “Oneirodynia” grips you tight and whisks you away on a horrific, bizarre, and captivating journey into your subconscious.
When Aenaon fires on all cylinders, Hypnosophy pulls you into its colorful world with ease. “Void,” easily the album’s most tranquil song, features some beautiful female vocals that remind me of Anneke Van Giersbergen and Shlomit Levi (ex-Orphaned Land). The opening guitar-and-sax riff of “Fire Walk With Me” lingers well after the song ends. The leads performed by guitarists Anax and Achilleas C. pepper and punctuate Hypnosophy, as every song on here contains at least one memorable solo or melody that sticks out. Closer “Phronesis – Psychomagic” keeps things varied enough to offset its monstrous fifteen-minute run time, with enough curveballs, infectious hooks, and changes to keep your attention engaged.
But what happens when certain riffs and ideas don’t work? Then songs drag themselves further than necessary. “Earth Tomb,” despite containing some bizarre spoken parts by Astrous and a chorus that Ghost would kill Papa Emeritus for, feels too straightforward and plodding in stark contrast to the rest of the album. “Thus Ocean Swells” bumbles a bit due to a comparatively weak chorus, with Papagiannakis sounding strangely like “Sweating Bullets” era Dave Mustaine. Thankfully, the good far outweighs the bad. Also, for an album with a low DR score, Hypnosophy sounds vibrant and alive. The saxophone pops, the bass feels full, and the mix doesn’t feel loud or distorted.
I see why AMG Himself wanted in on this review, as Aenaon hit just enough of the right buttons for me as well. Hypnosophy broke a cardinal rule of black metal… it’s fun. That word stuck out the most during my time with Hypnosophy. Sometimes, a little fun is needed, kvltness and trooness be damned. Yet another band to keep tabs on.