Astrophobos – Corpus Review

Astrophobos, a black metal trio hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, find themselves in moderately good company here at AMG Skullpits and Sundries, LLC. While they’ve tooled around since 2009, only their 2014 debut Remnants of Forgotten Horrors received a proper review treatment and was well received. We missed the sophomore effort, released in 2019, but I found myself intrigued by the monochrome artwork adorning their third record, Corpus. Clocking in at a tight 37 minutes of barebones black metal, will Astrophobos‘ latest prove to be a resurgence of tried and true second-wave to the forefront of the scene?

Purists will appreciate Astrophobos‘ approach to black metal: the wheel rolls just fine, so there’s no reason to reinvent it. Blast beats that come very close to sounding like they’re off-beat when they are actually right on, frosty trem-picked riffs and leads, and raspy croaks delivered in the band’s native tongue grace the listener just as black metal has done since the nineties. In most cases, Corpus exemplifies black metal being put through the motions more than pushing the envelope, and that’s perfectly serviceable. Then again, I need a little bit more than that to pique my interest.

Opener “Corpus” serves as a perfect example to that end. It’s straightforward, militant, and marching black metal and nothing more. Granted, it’s competently performed and enthusiastically delivered, but it could be so much more with just a little bit of extra flair and creativity that so many bands in this era put forward. Astrophobos are surely capable of that effort, as they deliver more exciting and memorable fare on that well-received debut mentioned earlier. They offer a smidge of it here, as well, but I have to wait until the closing track, “Under Jord,” to hear it. My journey through this album, especially after discovering that the best part comes at the very end, felt as dry as 100-year-old bone dust clawing itself down my esophagus, such was the lack of memorable songs, or even one memorable moment.

On the flipside, “Under Jord” proves that Astrophobos have more than just the skill to play instruments well. It’s melodic, rousing, and yet sounds like it still belongs in the lineup that composes Corpus. Between the invigorating leadwork to the (somewhat canned) choir chants at the close, this singular song shows that this band holds the capability to write compelling music that engages and digs into your brain. In all fairness, most tracks on Corpus offer some small hint at something more, a tiny sliver of that intangible quality that separates superficially good music from music that resonates with a person and sweeps them off their feet. “Under Jord,” unfortunately, is the only song to capitalize on that potential. Aside from that, Astrophobos do have a knack for album ordering and pacing, with each track on Corpus serving its function in the ideal position to maximize whatever impact it could have. As a result, the record flows beautifully from beginning to end, maintaining ample momentum to keep interested listeners invested in its progress. The band’s skill with organizing Corpus may also play a significant role in exponentially enhancing the impact of that final track, which I applaud. I wish more bands would use the bulk of their albums to lead up to an exciting final act like Astrophobos have here.

Astrophobos don’t do anything on Corpus that deserves to be labeled as “bad,” but this album could have been so much more. Based on the fun and furious nature of Remnants of Forgotten Horrors, plus the stark uptick in songwriting quality showcased on this album’s closing track, I must conclude that Corpus simply doesn’t live up to Astrophobos‘ potential. We’ve seen this happen before with myriad other, more established bands. We’ve also seen a good number of those bands return to form in time. My hope is that Astrophobos follow suit.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Triumvirate Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 12th, 2021

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