Yoth Iria – As The Flame Withers Review

The debut of a band formed by seasoned veterans is, in a way, the best of both worlds. You get the fresh perspective of a new artist, eager to try something different, without the inexperience that may lead to errors in performances or songwriting. You also get all the good of a collection of artists who know what they’re doing, without the expectations that come with extensive back catalogs, hard-earned fan bases, and established styles. Yoth Iria is one such acts, and As The Flame Withers is such a debut. Two members make up the core of the band: bassist Jim Mutilator and vocalist The Magus, both highly influential names in the Hellenic black metal scene, both part of early Rotting Christ, and quite a few others. Along with experienced session musicians, they are poised to hit the ground running. But do they sprint to the finish, or do they trip over their shoelaces and eat asphalt?

Well, As The Flame Withers is no Usain Bolt, but it’s not terribly far behind. This is a slick and melodic black metal album, balancing hooks and fury against a moody atmosphere that evokes such ritualistic ancient civilizations as the Sumerians. The album shines in its versatility; opener “The Great Hunter” and single “The Red Crown Turns Black” are on the faster end of the spectrum, battering like a Mediterranean summer rainstorm, but “Yoth Iria” and “Unborn, Undead, Eternal” adopt the swaying mid-pace of proto-religious worship, and “Hermetic Code” is so atmospheric and mysterious as to be called “hushed.” A curious guest in the genre pallet is the influence of NWoBHM, which seems to inform much of the riffs, which are relatively low on tremolo by black metal standards. It makes for a lighter, more accessible album in the style, and sets it well apart from much of the modern hyper-dense scene.

Considering their legendary status, you might expect Mutilator and The Magus to draw most of the attention, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s session musicians George Emmanuel and JV Maelstrom (guitars and drums respectively) that truly steal the show, with John Patsouris supporting with a tastefully limited application of keys. Emmanuel provides the album with tons of excellent, tightly played hooks and immersive solos, managing to set the ritualistic tone while never getting caught in stale repetition. But the first thing I noticed on my initial spin was Maelstrom’s powerful and diverse drumming, assaulting with head-spinning whirlwinds yet never feeling busy for the sake of sounding busy. If I were to point at any weak spot in the performances, in fact, it would be The Magus. His croak is admittedly great at setting the mood, but it is a tad one-note, which stands out particularly in the face of how dynamic the rest of the music is.

Along with the, admittedly small, vocal issue comes another, admittedly also small, note in the margins. The tracks individually are excellent; the dark symphonics of “The Mantis,” the fantastic, ominous hooks of “Yoth Iria” and the semi-thrashy, almost Judas Priest-like riffs of “The Red Crown Turns Black” are but a few of the highlights. The album does nothing to attempt smithing the 8 tracks into a unified whole, however. Each song remains stodgily solitary, with no discernible overarching album-wide arc of any kind, and the lot could be put in any random order without affecting the experience much if at all. How much of an issue this is really depends on the listener, and many among you will likely shrug and say “so what.” For me, to experience an album as a whole, I have a strong preference for it to be more than the sum of its parts, and it’s one of the few things that prevent the cherrying of this otherwise delicious cake.

So a playlist-album it may be, and minor vocal issues it may carry. Neither takes away from the fact that Yoth Iria is storming onto the Greek black metal scene with a face of their own, a sound with accessibility as well as depth, hooks as well as fury, with magistral performances and top-notch songcraft. Any playlist would be so lucky as to be adorned by this killer little debut, and I have a feeling Mutilator and the Magus have big plans for their newborn. As The Flame Withers does the opposite of its titular promise, burning bright with the hungry flames of a sacrificial fire.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pagan Records
Websites: yothiria.bandcamp.com | yothiria.com | facebook.com/yothiriaofficial
Releases Worldwide: January 25th, 2021

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