Following on from their 2010 self-released EP, Arcane Secrets, Swedish band Astrophobos have arrived at the funeral dressed in all all their Triumvirate Records finery, in a manner that I can only describe as just a smidgen outside of fashionably late. Yup, the eulogy’s in the process of wrapping up – can you say awkward silence? Bands like Dissection, Satyricon, Naglfar, Old Man’s Child and yes I’m going to say it – Cradle of Filth, have been indoctrinating us in their evil and melodic blackened ways for quite some time now and they’ve been doing it for the most part rather well. So where does that leave these gents with a penchant for Lovecraft? Can they pull out all the stops, deliver something uniquely Astrophobos, and belt out more than just borrowed melodies?
Right off the bat, “Soul Disruptor” fills you with a sense of familiarity and you’re going to pick up on the similarities in lilt between Micke Broman’s vocal style and that of Kristoffer Olivius (Naglfar, ex-Bewitched, ex-Bloodline). Both vocalists have a whispered, raspy method of recounting their lyrics. And as Naglfar‘s frontman berates in “Unleash Hell”, so Micke Broman also convinces you that he’s quite capable of turning your blood to ice when he unleashes his roaring blackened scream in “Winds of Insanity,” the persistently evil “Detestable Illumination,” “Invocating the Void” and my favourite track “Celestial Calamity.” Astrophobos further fan the flames and exacerbate the feeling of recognition by using the same rhythmic, lyrical writing style and content I associate with Naglfar. This is a double-edged sword, if you’re a Naglfar fanboy and Téras left you high and dry, Remnants of Forgotten Horrors could be a devilish alternative, but if you’re looking for a different kind of hellish encounter, this isn’t it.
As the line-up of the band indicates, Astrophobos don’t yet have a dedicated drummer. This left me with a few nagging spots on the album, most noticeably in “Soul Disruptor,” where the drum lines feel almost pedestrian and lack cohesion with the rest of the instrumentation. Guitar slingers Jonas Ehlin and Martin Andersson provide the melodic backbone that holds up Remnants of Forgotten Horrors. “The Malevolent Firmament,” “Invocating the Void” and ‘Of Primal Mystery” pay homage to a host of influences like 90’s era Dissection, Satyricon and Old Man’s Child (sans keyboards), but the most direct similarity is again to – dare I say it… Naglfar. “The Malevolent Firmament” and “Celestial Calamity” deliver a irresistible blend of scepticism and fatalism and I wouldn’t be remiss in saying that there are moments on “Celestial Calamity” that would fit well into a depressive So Much For Nothing track. The tracks sobering solo’s, delivered around the four minute mark, testify that Astrophobos have collared their melodic sound, shying away from long and technically complicated passages, opting rather for short well placed solos.
Remnants of Forgotten Horrors was recorded and mixed at Garaget Studio in Sweden, under the watchful eye of Erik Nilsson (Aoria and A Swarm of the Sun). Astrophobos have gone with the stock/standard/been done before modern production style favoured by Swedish black metallers and they’ve made a success of it. Yes, it steals away from the rawness of the black metal, but it’s consistent with the classic Scandinavian sound the band were aiming for.
To answer my questions of earlier, Astrophobos haven’t delivered anything unique. Remnants of Forgotten Horrors is packed with 45 minutes of mostly predictable, straight forward tracks. Having said that, the band have delivered emotive guitar melodies with plenty of hooks and explosive vocals and that makes this a very commercially acceptable first release. [Commercially acceptable black metal? What is the world coming to? – Steel Druhm].