Astriaal
Renascent Misanthropy

Hailing from the grim, frost bitten realms of Brisbane, Australia, Astriaal play voracious black metal that lies squarely between the truest classic style and a slightly more modern razor sharp, melodic take on the genre.

Comparisons could be made to Dissection, Naglfar and Marduk (and to these ears, Angel Corpse), but Astriaal make the sound their own with their far more adventurous labyrinthine compositions. Forsaking symphonic pomp and atmospherics, Astriaal deliver their ambience through sparse acoustics and builds that often explode with phenomenal force into some of the best black metal I’ve heard in some years.

While certainly a majority of the album is a swirling tremolo filled cyclone, the subtle harmonics captured within the maelstrom are cleverly rendered to produce a layered sound that takes many listens to absorb. The production is smartly balanced to capture the classic Scandinavian grimness, but forceful and heavy enough to give each riff a little more weight and resonance than your average Darkthrone clone, but not the Marduk/ Setherial wall of sound approach. I would place the overall tone similar to Naglfar’s Vittra.

Astriaal’s songwriting is what sets them apart, especially towards the halfway point of the album as more diverse elements creep into an already impressive array of biting riffs and vicious harmonies. Tracks are hard to single out as favorites, as the whole 40 minutes bursts with supreme talent and jaw dropping ferocity. From opening ominous instrumental ‘The Funeral Procession’ and closer ‘The Halls of Perdition’, the album is consistently brilliant. But tracks with just hint of pace changing acoustics or haunting chanted vocals like ‘Glories of the Nightsky’, ‘Ode to Antiquity’ and ‘Arborescence’ leave gaping sonic puncture wounds in your memory, as the brief moments of peace only serve to enforce the total devastation wrought by the grandiose delivery of the rest of the material, and frankly they give you a bit of a breather. The underlying melodies are caked in a vitriolic gloss that matches anything Dissection put out. ‘Reaper of Dark Ages’ is simply a display of blistering perfection, and it sees the albums only brief introduction of synths, but only to close out an already breathtaking climax.

Renascent Misanthropy is a hard listen initially, because it is so violent and abrasive, (especially ‘Ritual Hate Construct’) but after a few tracks is does seem to calm down, with the wicked harmonies slicing their way out of the chaos, but the album is simply one of those that requires a full listen each time, as each track is worthy of your undivided attention (except maybe the intro and outro). That being said if the opening salvo of ‘Arborescence’ doesn’t blow you away, you might as well give up on listening to metal.

I’d have to put Renascent Misanthropy right up there with Anaal Nathrakh’s The Codex Necro as a landmark of modern black metal, and is a must own for any fan of black metal or any form of sonic extremity for that matter.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 21st, 2003

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