Astrophobos
Remnants of Forgotten Horrors

Firstly, my apologies to the band for not punching out the review of this early year release a little sooner. Tardiness aside, the debut album from Sweden’s Astrophobos taps into the melodic black metal vein, championed by the likes of Dissection and Naglfar in the 90’s, and does a very capable job of refreshing what has become a nostalgic and undervalued style of black metal.

And they do it pretty damn well, without bringing anything particularly innovative or unique to the equation.  Instead Astrophobos perform with admirable energy, aggression and a clear appreciation of the style, compensating for a lack of originality with boundless energy and some very catchy songwriting.  A bleak, distinctly Scandinavian atmosphere blankets the album, giving off the cold, desolate vibe the trio (rounded out by session drummer Fredrik Widigs) were no doubt aiming for. Remnants of Forgotten Horrors was recorded and mixed by Erik Nilsson (Aoria, A Swarm of the Sun) and is armed with a production job befitting of the style. And whilst a little on the thin side, the sound has well-rounded balance and clarity without compromising the raw aesthetics of the material.

Remnants of Forgotten Horrors starts off predictably enough, with a pair of scorching tunes (“Soul Disruptor” & “Winds of Insanity”) cutting right to the chase of what Astrophobos are all about. However, as the album progresses the band flesh out their songwriting with striking dynamics, sombre melodies and moments of restraint which brings a nice contrast and added intensity to the scathing elements of their attack. Micke Broman’s vocals are fairly standard black metal fare, but are suitably vicious; full of conviction and emotional depth. He knows his way around a decent vocal hook as well; check out his savagely catchy work on the blistering “Winds of Insanity” or the sheer rage and conviction on “His Abysmal Grave” for further emphasis of his finer vocal efforts.  Meanwhile guitarists’ Jonas Ehlin and Martin Andersson guide the way through the scathing blizzard with a steady supply of biting tremolo riffs, genuinely stirring, sorrowful melodies, haunting progressions, and the occasional understated solo and acoustic passage.  They nail the balance between their melodic sensibilities and the unrelenting violence of their execution with supreme skill, lending the album a strong dynamic scope that prevents the songwriting becoming stale or monotonous.

While the sharper, concentrated bursts of aggression on tracks like “Soul Disruptor” and “Of Primal Mystery” get the blood pumping, it’s in the longer forms that Astrophobos deliver the epic goods.  The beautifully paced ”Detestable Illumination” carries its weighty length with aplomb, capturing the album’s foreboding vibe perfectly whilst delivering some of the most potently violent passages of the album. 9.13 minute closer “Celestial Calamity” is even better, blending explosive aggression and icy blasts with injections of harrowing melody and a soothing mid-song acoustic break.

Astrophobos aren’t quite innovative enough to turn the black metal scene on its head, but within their chosen style the band executes an excellent example of melodic black metal; valuing songwriting dynamics and uncompromising aggression in delivering a debut of great promise and quality.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
March 17th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    this is very well done, but the melodies are pretty much interchangeable with anything from that late 90s melodic black metal era. good for nostalgia and homage but I’m not finding anything novel here. like you said, they compensate for a lack of originality with a solid effort.


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