AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Autonoesis – Moon of Foul Magics

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

If you go to the Autonoesis Facebook page, you’ll find little more than a few posts about this enigmatic operation’s last album and a photo of simply the letter A. Similarly, a sparsely maintained Instagram account recalls the tale of a band whose premise isn’t really to make a fuss at all. Nonetheless, Autonoesiswho hails from Toronto, Canada—earned themselves a small and loyal, if not incredibly vocal, fanbase with their 2020 self-titled debut. Yet, in this void of knowledge surrounding this band and their happenings, the collective metal underground managed to make a small rumble upon seeing a Bandcamp notification that Autonoesis had released Moon of Foul Magics back in late August. Being the untrained seismologists that we are here at the house of AMG, we pooled our efforts together to assess what kind of ground these anonymous Canadian acolytes of the dark arts have broken this go around. At the very least, we known they’ve managed to break our efforts to give them an elegant genre tag. Is it blackened thrash? Progressive blackened thrash? Thrashed and blackened prog? We’re not entirely sure,1 but we have opinions.Dolphin Whisperer

El Cuervo: Canada’s Autonoesis are like a metal thoroughbred. You can directly trace their roots back through the sub-genres informing their sound. From the sharp edge of black metal and the heavy punch of thrash metal, to the savagery of death metal and the classic noodling of NWoBHM. Moon of Foul Magics executes this metallic medley with lively, old-school feel and a very clear orientation around its guitars, with the infrequent vocals taking on a percussive role that clears the stage for the unrelenting riffs and shredding. It’s hardly the smoothest, most polished package but it has lost some of the roughness of the band’s energetic, self-titled debut. I recall being struck by the debut’s dangerous, immediate sound but Foul Magics is produced with a clearer mix, more detailed compositions and extended instrumental passages. Sadly, these qualities sand off the rough edge which I enjoyed so much previously, despite the band’s evident instrumental and songwriting growth. The always-good-and-sometimes-great leads are unfortunately also bloated by repetition, forced to carry 66 long minutes. What’s here is largely enjoyable but Foul Magics would have been a killer 40-minute record. 3.0/5.0

Cherd: My initial impressions of Autonoesis were decidedly mixed. I stumbled upon their eponymous debut in 2020 playing Bandcamp roulette and was surprised to find a modest amount of buzz surrounding it. I found their take on blackened progressive thrash a sturdy but unremarkable pastiche. It seemed to me if you fed an AI enough hours of classic thrash, second-wave black metal and half a prog song it could spit out Autonoesis. After my initial spin of Moon of Foul Magics, I was ready to write it off as more of the same, but with every subsequent listen, they drew me further into their winding, mystical take on classic 80s and 90s sounds. The initially daunting 66 minutes became much more digestible as repeat listens revealed a wealth of memorable riff progressions. Good old-fashioned thrashers (“Raise the Dead,” “Conjurer”) complement longer tracks like “Nihility, Endless Winter,” with its epic meloblack opening salvo, galloping midsection and atmospheric second half. Moon of Foul Magics is all about guitar heroics, and the band’s anonymous guitarists thankfully have the chops to pull it off, right down to the acoustic intros and interludes with neoclassical flourishes like those once employed by thrash bands of olde to say METALHEADS LIKE PRETTY MUSIC TOO, MOTHERFUCKERS. There’s no denying that 66 minutes is too long, and the production puts the blackened vocals too far back in the mix for my taste, but Autonoesis is a band more than deserving of a label. 3.5/5.0

Doom_et_Al: I had no expectations going into Moon of Foul Magics, being unfamiliar with Autonoesisߵs debut. Thrash is a genre that only a handful of bands pull off successfully, and even when you make it cool with black metal, it’s still tricky. Somehow, Autonoesis have cracked the code. This is just massively entertaining, featuring righteous riffs; epic, progressive tracks; face-melting solos; and enough weird instrumental moments that are fun rather than annoying. When the band really gives itself breathing room on the longer tracks (The stunning “Moon of Foul Magics,” “Descending the Void”) it shines brightest. Best of all? There is so much going on that repeat listens only deepen the joy. Only a few quibbles stopped this getting an unqualified recommendation. First, there is filler, ironically most noticeable on some of the shorter tracks, and especially on the second half. This bad boy desperately needed an editor to crack the whip and make some cuts. Second, while I don’t hate the production, it buries the already monotonal vocals right the back, leeching their power. But these shouldn’t detract from an album absolutely worth your time. An excellent surprise. 3.5/5.0

Dear Hollow: Autonoesis looks like it should be your typical second-wave Darkthrone worship. From the grainy black hole cover to the spidery logo and the occult-themed title, you would have merit to let this one go into the void of Bandcamp black metal. But hoo boy, would you be missing out. Stuffing as many grooves, Agalloch-ian acoustic interludes, and, what, Latin-folky guitar shreds into its albeit bloated hour-and-six-minute runtime, you’d be more likely to fuck shit up in the corpse-painted mosh pit than a frostbitten Scandinavian forest somewhere. Kicking in the door with the ripping grooves of the title track and rarely letting up, Moon of Foul Magics feels more thrash than black, as the grooves of the title track, “Raise the Dead,” and “The Conjurer” will live in your head for days. While grim aesthetics make their appearances in the atmospheric sprawls of “Crypt of Thought” and the blastbeats-and-tremolo Happy Meal of “Nihility, Endless Winter,” it serves as depth and dimension in an album devoted to thrashy concussion. It is a far from perfect album, the latter half dragging more than the first chapter and its divisively clean-but-still-raw production, but I’ll take a double helping of this moon collision if it’s done this well. 3.0/5.0

Dolphin Whisperer: Somewhere between modern blackened thrash (think Sadistic Ritual) and techy meloblack (like Stortregn), Autonoesis dwells in a riff rippin’, judiciously tremmed, and format-fluid world, which, on paper, promises a wild ride. In practice too, this Canadian [insert proper band size between one and four members] dazzles routinely with extended guitar theatrics that ape the mighty axe-slinging of Cacophony, while still being able to guide us gently back to song structure with smart tempo shifts and cautiously interjected nylon-led segues. On top of that Moon of Foul Magics lies littered with monstrous introductions setting the stage for raucous outings on early rippers “Raise the Dead” and “Crypt of Thought” which both earn the first half of the album ample momentum to its first peak, “Nihility, Endless Winter.” If only Moon of Foul Magics had ended at that brisk 35-minute runtime. Unfortunately, this album keeps on serving more of the same tricks on its second half, a choice that exposes slowly the strain of the programmed kit on remaining interesting. And while tracks like “The Conjurer” and “Descending the Void” reprises the power of earlier hooks, the long song progressions struggle to make sense amongst themselves—despite being flashy and beautiful—and they certainly don’t maintain a strong connection between songs. Autonoesis has finely honed chops but haven’t yet put together an album that earns my undivided and continually impressed attention. 2.5/5.0

Show 1 footnote

  1. Autonoesis describes the awareness of one’s own existence as an entity in time, so we can assume they at least know they exist even if we can’t agree on what Autonoesis is.- Dolph
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