Aphotic
Stillness Grows

Formed from the ashes of legendary doom acts Dusk and Crawl, Wisconsin’s Aphotic have been hard at work forging a new band to carry on the ethereal, natural doom metal of their prior acts. Stillness Grows is the miserable fruits of their labor; 3 demo EPs on this one album. 2000’s self titled demo, 2001’s Under the Veil of Dark and 2002’s unreleased Stillness Grows EP, resulting in 14 tracks of expansive, esoteric doom that obviously is reminiscent of Dusk as well as fellow US doomsters Morgion and Novembers Doom.

What first surprises you about this release is the brevity of the tracks; the longest song is a mere 6 minutes while the rest hover around three or four minutes. Rather than drawn out, expansive dirges with vast builds and lengthy interludes, Aphotic trim the fat and deliver a tighter, lighter doom variant that’s no less emotional and while still containing varying degrees of acoustics, synths and such, never gets hung up in sonic overdramatics. While logically, strains of Majestic Thou in Ruin permeate the material, Aphotic’s take is more streamlined and slightly more varied rather than the all out crawl of that release. The first two demos have programmed drums, so the sound is far less organic than Dusk but the tracks are no less sobering as the material carries plenty of atmospherics despite the expected demo quality, which truthfully is still pretty good. Even with change from programming to drums, the sound between the three efforts is remarkably consistent, as the demos play in reverse order from the newer Stillness Grows to the initial self titled demo, you can only discern the drums as the real change in sound.

Vocally a slightly black rasp is used rather than a deep bellow, with odd chants and clean whispers, the pitch of the vocals is more scathing in the recent material and a listen to ‘Benumb’ reminded me of an early, less-dragon inspired Bloodthorn or Opthalamia rather than their thicker, deeper US peers. The newer material overall seems more divided between stark acoustics and a bleaker, menacingly blacker take on doom metal and less mopey themes (‘Spores’, ‘Lunar Ride’), while the earlier material being more morose and self absorbed in pity and more traditional doom themes (‘Under Veil of the Endless Grey Sky’, ‘Free Me’ ‘Livid Dread’). It’s like between Aphotic and Stillness Grows, Aphotic became slightly indignant at their lack of recognition, and the music traces a slightly less self pity laden path.

The shift from Stillness Grows to Under Veil.. is tangible by the sudden appearance of the mechanical drum sound, but the music itself is still tastefully written to be depressive yet to the point. ‘Precipice’ is actually one of the stronger tracks on the collection with an epic pace and almost Aeternus like gait, except with synths. ‘Under Veil of the Endless Grey Sky’ is the first track where you can truly feel the doom resonating with chanted vocals and a depressive hue, but Aphotic never resign themselves to dragging out riffs, rather making their take on doom a compact direct relative of its parent genre. The programmed drums do give the material an ill-placed mechanical feel, but the structures and quality of the songs make a solid atonement.

The last tracks (the first demo), are far more pure doom with the vocals being slightly deeper and the material being grander and slower, but it still has an aloof ambience that makes it more than ‘woe is me’ doom metal. ‘Psychoma’, is by far the compilations heaviest track with a killer main riff, even if somewhat unpolished. The growth of the band from demo to demo is subtle but tangible, and ultimately natural sounding, but hearing them run together they sound fairly compatible and as a bands normal progression should sound.

A solid collection of doom styled metal from a band that’s criminally unsigned for their upcoming first full length effort.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 11th, 2004

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