AthanaTheos – Prophetic Era (Or How Yahveh Became the One) Review

“French philosophy” is, in some circles, a punchline. It evokes the image of an edgy atheist, fedora on head, sipping his black espresso (symbolic, of course, of the darkness of his existence – the horror of reflecting on Sartre in a café surely cripples the best of men) and smoking a strange, thin cigarette in perpetuity – pretension personified. AthanaTheos, a French black doom atmospheric dissonant epic death metal band1 has tried their hand not just at an album but an epos2 – an epic poem set to music. Prophetic Era (Or How Yahveh Became the One) is, predictably of French intelligentsia, vehemently atheistic as it has so often been since the Revolution.

I’m obviously not in agreement with the theology contained herein, but art expresses ideas – we can appreciate the expression and not agree with or endorse all that is expressed. AthanaTheos expresses their ideas through long-form songs that recall first and foremost their fellow French atheists Hysteria (whose last record I enjoyed), SepticFlesh sans the orchestral accompaniment, Morbid Angel’s Gateways to Annihilation, and naturally some Behemoth circa Zos Kia Cultus. The production is strangely boxy and plasticine, but it doesn’t hamper the music too much. That said I’m confused by the decision to make a sweeping album – sorry, epos – with boxed-in production like this. I suppose the tempest is to occur in the espresso cup.

Things start promisingly enough (if one ignores the cringy opening lyrics) in “Samaria,” where a streamlined Gateways/Cultus riff pulls the listener in and some melodious chants – which in a nice touch were done by the band instead of sampled – are layered over top. There are other harmonic points of interest in the track, and with these AthanaTheos shows themselves capable of creating a sense of disturbing majesty. Despite being nearly eleven minutes long, “Samaria” is a good opener with a narrative-based structure that makes good use of eerie harmonies. AthanaTheos is at their best when they do this interesting harmonic work, and the coda in “Jerusalem (The Exile to Babylon)” is a smartly crafted slow burn that captures the epic and poetic concept in music that the band were aiming for.

I would have liked this quality and creativity to carry throughout Prophetic Era, but it does not. “One Against All” represents a huge drop in quality, as it’s basically an inferior and overlong Hysteria song. It’s not awful, but it’s bog-standard death metal and apart from an irritating Nergal-esque shouting narration, you’d have no idea what the song was about or that it was part of a larger concept. Likewise, “Paradigms” is thoroughly tolerable death metal replete with quick double-tracked vocals that were done better by Deicide and Behemoth. The melodicism once again retreats to lesser Hysteria territory, and while it’s not bad it sounds like AthanaTheos is underperforming. Existing in the middle somewhere is “(R)evolution Revelation” which has some halfway decent Mgla melodies in it which gives it more of an identity, but otherwise contents itself with being largely forgettable death metal.

Organ and a whisper of a garbled Psalm in French bring Prophetic Era to a close. The reference is to Psalms 94:17, which in the NIV translation reads “Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.” In English, AthanaTheos says that there is nothing left but silence – get it? It’s an atheistic reading of a Psalm, look at what it implies! I found myself underwhelmed by this rote ending, and by Prophetic Era as a whole. There are good ideas executed well scattered throughout its forty-eight minutes, but there’s also a lot of chaff amongst the wheat that was never properly sifted out. There are dialogues throughout the lyrics of the record, but since the growling lacks distinction or personality, it’s hard to tell the characters apart except for when the chanted lyrics materialize. Given that AthanaTheos can demonstrably execute these chanted vocals well and make them effectively harmonize with their death metal riffing, excising growling entirely could have made, paradoxically, quite the intriguing death metal record. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a half-baked concept throughout my listens to Prophetic Era. The lyrics are a mix of piecemeal Scripture references and weird Bible (non)fan fiction, and musically more than half of the record is unremarkable, inoffensive death metal. The best parts of Prophetic Era show a band capable of creating an extremely interesting death metal record, but unfortunately it is not, in my view, present here.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lavadome Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 29th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Don’t blame me, I didn’t write the one-sheet.
  2. See Note 1.
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