Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac


France’s Esoctrilihum have released, since their inception in 2016, get ready for this… 10 studio albums and 2 ep’s. The one man band member is referred to as Asthâghul, and quite honestly the mystery surrounding him, and being a one man band, reminds me of the late great Quorthon from Bathory.  He plays all instruments, writes all the lyrics and the variety of sounds with synths/keys, doom, blasting and ferocious black metal and melodic at times too, vicious black metal vocals as well as clean vocals – really, for me, make Esoctrilihum one of the most interesting extreme metal bands out there.

However, his music is a fuck ton to take in.  He released 2 albums in 2022 and in 2023 he has already released Funeral in January and now we get Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac.  All of his albums are not short either.  The average length of his albums is around the 75-minute mark and while he has a few 40 min albums thrown in there, these albums and songs are a lot. Now I just recently reviewed the new Metallica album and at 77 minutes that was a lot, and while I really enjoy the album, some say I should have received a badge of honor for reviewing such a long album.

Well then with this newest Esoctrilihum album, some would say not only should I receive a badge of honor, but add in a meal and a dessert, because this is the longest album I have ever reviewed and that is in my collection.  This album is 14 tracks, recorded over a 2-year period, and exceeds 2+ hours.  There is the question do bands that have such a high output in terms of quantity of releases does this make their quality diminish?   Excellent question and for some bands I would say that can be the case and while there are some Esoctrilihum albums that are better than others – the 2020 album Eternity of Shaog, is my favorite of theirs, I do feel all of their albums are special and unique and as much as they are to absorb, I love this band.  One of my favorite experimental black metal bands.

This release is broken up into 3 discs and the first one is called In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, the Cosmic Bull God, containing 6 songs.  “Tȃimonh Ѳx” begins serenely, with explosions, and then the beautiful keys over the acoustic guitars and speedy double bass are excellent.  Pianos enter the picture as a great isolated stand-alone piece.  These moments are over a mid-paced section and there are a variety of sounds, such as a flute.  The song soon erupts into vicious blasting and the excellent vocals are vicious.  We get some heavy groove moments, resembling death metal and the double bass is so damn fast.  I would imagine he uses a drum machine, but I do not know if programmed they sound excellent.  Towards the end of this 8-minute song the blasting is killer, with the various instruments and vocals-this is dizzying and brutal at the same time.

“Ѳxphiliastisme” is another standout song at 7 minutes it’s brutal and the guitar melodies early on are captivating and then when the blast gets going the melodies continue with the keys/synths being played and then the cavernous black metal vocals erupting all over the place.  There are start and stop moments and that explosion bang/drum sound which is incorporated at various moments on this album to accentuate certain blasts is very cool, yet jarring at the same time.  I triple dog dare you to listen to this with AirPods on, the music will envelop your senses.  Trust me.

Disc 2 is called: In the Presence of AlŭBḁḁl, the 5-Eyed Star Beast, and also contains 6 songs.  “AlŭBḁḁlisme” begins with a vicious blast soon thereafter the 90’s style thrash beat.  This song is punishing and the blasts are unrelenting and the cymbals are super loud and that jarring drum sound hits again to signal a tempo shift and at the 2.20 part the song does just that and gets right into a vintage Celtic Frost riff-this moment is one of the highlights off this monstrously long album.  The riff continues for quite some time and is accompanied by some melodic moments.  This section lasts for over a minute and then into a thrash-like speed before more melody comes in and this is one of the finest songs the band has ever crafted.

“Säth-Oxd, Stellar Basilisk” starts beautifully with the keys and the various black metal vocals and some early barking growls sets the stage for a peculiar song.  There are serene moments, vicious blasting and the keys are prominent throughout.  There are some death metal vocals intertwined with the black metal vocals as well and there is no linear path with this song and that is ok with me.  The guitar harmonies are excellent!

“Skorpïus Nebŭlah Tyrant” is my favorite song on this entire album.  I love the vocal melodies and the jumpiness to their tones-very catchy.  The song starts with a ferocious blast and never lets up and the keys are ethereal and very catchy.  This song is over 8 minutes and is a lot of fun.

Disc 3 has the last 2 songs both at 21 minutes a piece they are long.  The title of this last chapter is: In the Mouth of Zi-Dynh-Gtir, the Serpen-Time Eater.  ”Zi-Dynh-Gtir : Eon Devourer” is the first and “Serpathei-Ӿythion : Reptilian Time Reversed” is the second long song.  Both are super cool with some eastern European sounds spread across the songs, as well as some Egyptian styled elements.  The songs stop and start together and I appreciate they are broken up into 2 separate songs.  The various tones and sounds on these tracks are all over the place so get ready for more captivating moments.  Some well-placed clean vocals help further disrupt the flow and keep you guessing as to what will happen next.

Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac is a lot to take in and broken up into the 3 separate acts does help the listener.  You may want to take a break after listening to the first act containing 6 songs and come back to the rest later. The album cover is bonkers and off the wall -goes well with the music. When listening to the entire album the best way to explain this release is cosmic horror, space, black metal atmospheric opera.  This is a remarkable album and Esoctrilihum continue to push the boundaries of what we know and love about music.

This is high quality and nothing has dipped in their music quality, but as I said at over 2 hours this is hellaciously long, but it does flow quite well.  This is a massive release and I applaud Asthâghul for being one of the most creative musical talents in the scene.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
May 9th, 2023


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