12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

So about 8 years ago and for another webzine,  I reviewed the second album from Australia’s ArkhethIX & I: The Quintessence of Algaresh, a sprawling, brilliant, epic 2 CD , 10 song, 150 minute album of Symphonic black metal in the vein of Emperor, Keep of Kalessin, Dimmu Borgir et al.  Well, apparently  my review stuck with the band and while I had no idea the band were still a thing, they signed to Transcending Obscurity Records who sought me out for another review.

Well, the band is now sole member Tyraenos, and apparently over the last eight years he has done a lot of LSD (look at the cover), as even though this material is a few years old, Arkheth is quite a different creature than I recall. While still ambitious and epic, the band’s sound is far more unhinged, experimental and avant garde . Instead of track names like “Chronicles of the Ancient Narwynd” or “Dewy Eve upon the Eminent Foreland of Arg’Thorn” or “Black Riders of Avernus”, epic, keyboard drenched tremolo picked melodies and beautiful female vocals we now have “Trismegistus”, “Dark Energy Equilibrium” and “The Fool Who Persists in His Folly”, 5 songs, a 41 minute album, a swirly new logo and ……. a saxophone.

The thing is…. it’s still at times, simply brilliant. But at other times it’s a complete mess. Case and point, opening track “Trismegistus” (A Sumerian/Egyptian god?) , which almost had me completely giving up within the album’s first 3 minutes with its stop start, choppy, sax laced, jazzy discordance.  But at 3:45, and 5:33 we get some of the majestic riffage that made The Quintessence of Algaresh so good. It’s short lived but gave me enough hope to stick things out for the rest of the album.

Second track “Dark Energy Equilibrium” starts with a Tribulation-ish saunter, and morphs into an aural experimental dementia akin to a sonic Dali painting, and again I’m tempted to hit ‘stop’ and forsake the album, but at 6:41, I’m reeled back in with crystalline synth line. However, I’m almost fully repelled again by the sneering psychedelia that starts”Where Nameless Ghouls Weep”, clearly the album’s worst track, but Tyraenos reels me back in with “The Fool Who Persists in His Folly” and it’s wondrous clean vocals. Closer, “A Place Under the Sun” seems to be more of a throwback to the band’s past (as well as pure mid 90s symphonic black metal) with a moodier, somber, clean sung vocals, mid paced, atmospheric prose and some really nice synths and chord progressions, and even with the more languid saxophone use, it’s the albums best track and end the albums twisty turny journey on a high note.

While I can appreciate Tyraenos pushing boundaries and expanding Arkheth’s sound, the result switches between mind bogglingly brilliant when it settles into more traditional black metal and frustratingly head scratching when being more experimental. That said, those looking for  more challenging, thought provoking, truly ambitious, genre bending black metal a la Ephel Duath‘s The Painters Palette, and not a settle for a mainstream pandering circus sound soundtrack (I’m looking at you, new Dimmu Borgir), 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew should provide some enjoyment. But personally, I can’t help feel a little let down, even more so when going back to the sheer majesty of  IX & I: The Quintessence of Algaresh to prepare for this review. OK, Astriaal– it’s been 8 years since your last album. Your turn…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 8th, 2018


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