Asphagor – Pyrogenesis Review

Fire seems to be a popular theme in the black metal pantheon. Whether it be a metaphorical representation of birth or rebirth, a literal representation of destruction, or just a simple reference to Hell, Satan, or Varg, fire is a lifelong staple. Thankfully, from such a primal element of our Earth and in our hearts springs a bottomless well of inspiration for these bands, and Austria’s Asphagor are no exception. With fourth LP Pyrogenesis, the epic black metal quintet burn with the passion of a thousand suns, and they want you to burn with them.

Asphagor nimbly subverted my expectations, as their particular brand of black metal draws influence from a style that I very often overlook. Endless blasts, icy screeches, and synth embellishments find no home on Pyrogenesis. Instead, Asphagor swung the other direction, stripping down their arrangements to a black n’ roll stomp more often than not, and using dramatic songwriting instead of symphonic bombast to build massive scale; all narrated by an infernal being well learned in the art of the croak. It brings to mind the aggressive approach of Immortal, simplified just as is the best of Abbath’s solo work, then made epic again in the same manner that characterizes some of Bathory’s material. Just for good measure, this five-banger drop some blistering Emperor riffs on occasion, lest you forget that your face is indeed infinitely rippable.

To that last point, I direct you to the megabanger that is “The Great Erosion.” This track, located at the top of the album’s midsection, creates an insane momentum that will induce windmilling in copious quantities. Not only is it a blast, but it’s tidy and well-structured such as to become instantly memorable. Similarly, closer “Ghost of Aphelion” succeeds. The main theme begs for replays and its sense of dimension and grandeur befits its status as a conclusion to an epic sixty-three minutes. Across that inflated runtime, though, there are countless little details that strike a chord and make this journey exceedingly dynamic for a stock black metal record. The uncharacteristically light leads in “Scales of Retribution” and “Matricide,” the throat singing in “Nine Moons,” the transcendent tremolos of “Pyrogenesis,” and the unstoppable march of “Summoning” all conspire to embed viral soundbites into my brain for an eternity, and I’m all too happy to host them.

Pyrogenesis, for all of its dynamic songwriting and memorable passages, far exceeds its carrying capacity. The level of bloat endemic to the entire work causes large swaths of the runtime to get lost in the kerfuffle, those essential listening moments scattered too far between stretches of standard black metal with insufficient substance. Several cuts in particular struggle to make a lasting impression, including “The Mizaru Doctrine,” “Pavor Nocturnus,” and “The Architect.” These are all perfectly competent black metal tracks, but compared to Pyrogenesis’ best moments, they pale. Even many of the album highlights overstay their welcome, either by way of an overlong bridge (“Matricide”), repetitive passages (“Summoning”), or relatively lackluster climaxes (“Nine Moons”). As a final nitpick, instrumental opener “Ex Cathedra” has no business being over three minutes long. It confidently sets up the album’s epic scale within about forty seconds, and yet makes me wait another two minutes and change to turn the motor over. Such shenanigans test my patience.

Once the ash settles and the embers succumb to darkness, Asphagor’s fourth outing acquits itself in fine fashion. Tried and true black metal is alive and well, and Pyrogenesis readily attests to that fact. It may have been too eager to prove it, and spent too much time engaged in that endeavor. Nonetheless, its dynamic songwriting and substantially memorable highlights showcase a certain maturity and professionalism in this band’s musicianship. Will this record convert nonbelievers and newcomers? That remains to be seen. But I can confidently say that for those with a refined taste for all things blackened, Pyrogenesis is a cool, creative, and successful example of the style.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp31
Label: MDD Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. What the hell is even that?
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