Aethyrick – Apotheosis Review

Aethyrick relies heavily on the sense of quality. I’m sure you know their brand of black; it’s the metal equivalent of an Oscar-nominated movie. The Finnish twosome’s sophomore album Gnosis bore all the trademarks of an award-winner. Not 66 consecutive seconds passed without intangible platitudes like “heady,” “meticulous,” or “important” springing to mind. As reviewers, we’ve been indoctrinated to inhale this sound and ask for seconds. This is born partially from two decades of Scandi feet-kissing, but also from a formula that, begrudging as I am to admit, often works quite well. It falls to Apotheosis to prove Aethyrick on their merits and not merely by their company. As you might expect, separating the two is trickier than it sounds.

Even knowing all of the above, one can’t listen to Apotheosis and not be absorbed in its grandiosity. This is music for stars wheeling overhead, the cosmos splayed out as far as the eye can see. “The Starlit Altar” has that exactly in mind. The smoky atmosphere; the subtle twinkling in the guitar lines; the careful construction leading to drawn-out conclusions. Sound familiar? It’s the modern template for Finnish-forward atmo-heavy black metal, so hopefully, it does. Unspecified Guitarist (Gall or Exile, take your pick) dabbles in an often warm environment, the guitar tones transforming even the frostiest of licks into something more triumphant on “Flesh Once Divided.” The likewise Unknown Drummer plays an even hand, not overly reliant on any one tactic. Good thing too: his satisfying snares and crisp cymbals shape the proceedings just as often as the axes or the sufficiently tortured vocals. The performances are top-notch and tight across the board. The result, as you might expect, sounds excellent, cohesive, and often gorgeous. If there’s one thing you can count on with Apotheosis, it’s that sound, as familiar as that tree you’ve passed 17 times trying to get back from your photoshoot at the heart of winter.

That is a blessing for the genre aficionados and a curse for everyone else. If you know this type of metal, you know this type of metal. Aethyrick have no ace in the hole. The worthwhile musical passages, though admittedly high-quality, are standard for the genre by now. It’s not apery, just re-tread. With nothing individualistic enough to write home about, what we’re left with is a record that can only ever be merely good. This isn’t a knock on the performances, but the writing and the lack of ambition therein. It’s a tantalizing experience that leads you to believe something is always right around the corner. The longform experience, with every track ranging about six to eight minutes, is not meant just to be a mobius strip back to the same place over and over again. Apotheosis should be so goddamn good, and instead it’s just… fine. The repetition and monotonous components are fine. The riffs, fine. The predictable variations and builds, also fine. Not frustrated, insecure, neurotic, emotional; that might have produced something more interesting. Flat. Idle. Nice. Easy. FINE.

As you may have guessed before, the production is the most noteworthy component of Apotheosis. Even more than any one song—”Path of Ordeal” is probably my favorite, but not in a meaningful way. The mix and master from They Didn’t Give Me a Name turn in a superb effort that does exactly what’s needed at all the right times. Still, you have to wonder if it’s almost too perfect, given the lack of highlight elsewhere. The spooky, somewhat intrusive keys sprinkled across “Rosary of Midnights” and “Flesh Once Divided” come closest to a deviant quality, but are never more than window-dressing. Not to root for flaws or missteps, but something other than the pristine, unblemished black metal experience might have opened up new routes for Aethyrick to penetrate the consciousness.

The strongest execution in the world can only take floor-level ideas so far, but at least Aethyrick takes them as far as they can. The material on display might disappoint in one sense, but it certainly delights in several others. And that, in the end, leaves Aethyrick with a lot more promise than problems. The experience here is frustratingly good, but good nonetheless. Apotheosis—and Gnosis before it—lack only one thing and one thing only: identity. Should this duo sort out that last piece of the puzzle, the stars await them.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Sinister Flame
Websites: aethyrick.bandcamp.com | aethyrick.com
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2021

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