Tuesday, 7 May 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: AORATOS, "Gods Without Name"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/03/2019
Label: Debemur Morti Productions

“Gods Without Name” CD//DD//LP track listing

1). Parallax I
2). Holy Mother of Terror
3). Of Harvest, Scythe and Sickle Moon
4). Gods Without Name
5). Thresher
6). The Watcher on the Threshold
7). Prayer of Abjection
8). Dread Spirit of the Place
9). Parallax II

The Review:

There must be other US black metal artists out there delivering atmospheric, occult, disturbing hymns to elder gods.  But between Akhlys, Nightbringer, and now AORATOS, one-man powerhouse Naas Alcameth (aka Kyle Spanswick) has seemingly cornered the market on truly grim, pitch black metal.  Naas is one of the most prolific one-man powerhouses in black metal, which (SoundCloud rappers notwithstanding) may be the most dominant “solo” genre of the moment.  You’d be forgiven for assuming so much output from one songwriter would be indistinguishable or, at worst, repetitive, but his latest work as AORATOS should shut up any naysayers: Naas Alcameth has a seemingly boundless well of interesting and diverse offerings to the darkness.

As a thematic departure from his prior work, AORATOS seems less focused on the introspective dreamscapes of Akhlys or the arcane magickal workings of Nightbringer. Instead, AORATOS is an earthier turn to primordial worship.  The “group’s” promotional images feature two hooded, robed figures lurking near a dilapidated farmhouse, one holding an old-fashioned pitchfork.  But this isn’t some hokey devilry – this feels like some cult roots, some ancient hearth magic. 

Naas’s lyrics on “Of Harvest, Scythe, and Sickle Moon” paint a picture of medieval peasant life supplemented by rootsy paganism: “I’ve ripped my hair and torn my skin / to get my master’s harvest in / I’ve reeved all flesh for the mighty dead / and blooded the field neath the moon of red.” There’s an unrelenting drive towards some high-minded ancient ancestry in a lot of black metal (often towards elitism or, in some sinister circumstances, racial purity). This feels like a raw and honest departure – few of us were descended from pseudo-elven kings and warriors, but our low forbears may have enjoyed a dark communion without even being able to read.  In “Gods Without Name”, Naas invokes spirits that carried weight for generations without the burden of holy scriptures or grimoires: “God of the attic, cellar and wheel. God of the shed, abbatoir and mill. God of the edge, grotto and grove. Dark gods of the plot to whom I’m betrothed.”

Naas himself handles all the instrumental duties (guitars and synth), as well as lead vocals, while Nox Corvus (main man of ANOTHER solo black metal project, Serpent of the Black Forest) offers some guitar work and backing vocals.  Menthor, drummer of Nightbringer, Necrosadist, and others, is the standard type of black metal powerhouse you need on an album so expansive sounding. 

Naas has layers upon layers of instrumentation and vocals, creating a chorus of tortured but distinguishable shrieks and howls.  The guitars vary between shimmering but almost out-of-tune picking (which is way more unsettling than my description would make it seem), massive chords, and tremolo picking that will make the hairs on your neck stand up.  Menthor’s precise double kick work and blast beats is invigorating, while the sparse, doomy crashes of “Dead Spirit of the Place” punctuates the nightmarish, nearly ambient closer before launching into full on black metal assault: one assumes Frost would be proud, and don’t get me wrong, this is still remarkably evil sounding.  

Naas isn’t writing an anthropological dissertation – he’s subverting the expectations of what themes carry black metal.  It’s smart but the plain descriptions of superstitions and homespun occult practice are sincere and totally unpretentious.  There’s something undeniably chilling when Naas howls “I am the thresher ‘neath the moon’s baleful eye! I am the thresher, the wolf in the rye!”  If this is the worship music of the hearth magician, consider me converted.

“Gods Without Name” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp