(In this post Andy Synn review the fourth album by German post black metal band Agrypnie.)
Those of you who have been with the site for a while may recall when I first discovered German post-black metal masters Agrypnie. It was just over a year ago when they were announced for Summer Breeze, so it seems fitting that with the festival coming round again I finally get round to producing a review for their newest album, which I’ve been listening to almost religiously ever since it came out back in February.
For the unfamiliar amongst you (exactly why haven’t you read their entry in The Synn Report by the way?), the band, although loosely positioned within the ‘post-black metal’ genre, eschew the hazy fuzz of the Cascadian scene and the introverted ambience of the Gallic sound in favour of a heavier, more overtly metallic sound which possesses a more restless and tormented aura.
That’s not to say that the elements of the band’s sound are entirely divorced from their fellow brothers in bleakness – you’ll find that this album possesses an air of haunted desolation at times reminiscent of Agalloch’s Marrow Of The Spirit, as well as a grasp of subtle melody that echoes Alcest at their most sublime. Yet the Agrypnie sound is undeniably more driving and aggressive than that of their peers, melding the searing melancholy of black metal with a crushing post-metal heft and flashes of melodic death metal grandeur.
Aetas Cineris (“Age of Ashes”) continues to develop the band’s singular mix of artful atmosphere and punishing power, taking the emotional upheaval and forlorn beauty that permeated their previous releases and layering on an even heavier and more ominous sense of anguish and alienation. Bleaker, more despairing, yet no less hypnotic and captivating, every song is a howling lament, shot through with threads of melancholy resignation and frustrated fury.
The chiming, dissonant piano chords that open “Trümmer / Aetas Cineris” soon transform into a suffocating deluge of scything, wind-swept riffs and, rampant, pounding drum work. Nimble guitars twine barbs of piercing harmony in amongst stabbing thrusts of cold-edged metallic force, the vocals a tapestry of torment and angst, bristling with emotional turmoil. Throughout all this, a series of stylish lead parts weave a mournful melodic spell, building slowly toward a doom-drenched, despondent conclusion.
The sorrowful gloom of “Dezember” writhes and wallows in its own misery, a steady rain of ringing chords giving way to a stark and blissful ambience and a procession of thrumming, stabbing riffs and stuttering kick patterns, crafting a careful balance between rippling aggression and sombre melody, a penultimate acoustic interlude adding a moment of clarity before the song’s overpowering climax.
From its opening bars of chilling, eerie melody, “Zurück” soon coalesces into a perfect storm of seething tremolo work and stuttering blast-beats, whirling with elemental force around a squall of ravaged, throat rending vocals. Stomping, steel-clad riffs pound away, coated in a gleaming sheen of mournful, ambient keys, while a lengthy penultimate interlude of meditative clean guitars provides a moment of calm before the song culminates in a whiplashing procession of staccato chords and punchy drum-work.
The shimmering ambience of “Kosmos [Alpha]” is the eye of the storm, whose nebulous tranquillity reaches its zenith in a passage of slithering tremolo guitars and pulsating drums beats, before a raging downpour of dark, perilous riffs introduces the glacial grind of “Gnōsis”. Despite the air of grim beauty added by its layers of epic keyboards and bleeding lead guitars, there is no triumphant moment here – the song only grows darker, the shadows deeper, as it progresses toward its booming, hopeless finale.
The monolithic riff hammers and juddering, concussive drum patterns of “Erwachen” make the song one of the heaviest on the album, with only a slender harmony providing a faint thread of serene catharsis in sharp contrast to the sheer metallic force on display. The song melds moody, phantom melodies and pounding percussive violence in a truly captivating manner – dark, brooding, and brimming with visceral strength.
Dismal and disconsolate, “Sinnflut” washes over you in waves of claustrophobia and misery, a storm-driven cacophony of harmony and discord, 11+ minutes of tear-soaked anguish and blood-stained agony that culminates in a lengthy, flowing instrumental elegy. Truly striking and unforgettable.
The patient, morose build-up of shivering acoustic ambience that starts off the album’s final track “Asche” is a thing of simple, elegant beauty which slowly grows in complexity and intricacy, building minute-by-instrumental-minute toward an eruption of tumultuous metallic potency, finally reaching its apex in a scorched-earth symphony of clashing chords, rumbling drums, and ferocious, fire-breathing vocals.
Deeper, doomier, more despondent – perhaps even knowingly more difficult – Aetas Cineris expands upon the bleak and blackened aura that has always permeated Agrypnie’s music, the band now giving free rein to their darkest impulses in order to create a truly haunting requiem for the post-apocalyptic age.
This is an album that has an undeniable impact on first listen, yet reserves its greatest rewards for those willing to commit the necessary patience and dedication, crafting an experience both poignant and powerful, dramatic and desolate – expressive, emotional, and utterly electrifying.
Aetas Cineris was released by the German label Supreme Chaos Records. It’s also available on Bandcamp HERE.
Oh fucking Agrypnie!! Thank you Andy – I had made a mental note once upon a time to keep an eye out for this album… and of course completely forgot. So immediately on seeing this post I starting searching to find out what obscure webstore I could import this from… and it’s on fucking bandcamp:
My love for bandcamp and NCS just keeps growing…(in a purely metal way, of course)
Man, thanks for that link. I searched to see if it was on Bandcamp so I could embed a player with Andy’s review and failed to find it. You are superior to Google. That is the only explanation. It could not be that I am incompetent.
Ha haa, no worries. Maybe it was because it’s under the record label’s page? I would like to say I know what you look at on the internet and when, and can target ads and filter out internet results to my liking, with huge caches full of detailed maps and book records, but that would be kinda creepy, no?…
By they way, just realized my first post may have been a bit ambiguous, I was meaning ‘sweet it’s on bandcamp, now I can listen to it in CD quality right away’ – just in case that came off as a ‘why u no post bc link!! trollolol’ 😉
I don’t remember what words I used in the search, but they were either inadequate or I suffered temporary blindness in looking at the results. So nice to have the Bandcamp player in the post now, and to find a legit way to download the album, which I’m now doing too.
As much as I love Bandcamp, there are some quirks in its visibility to searches. If I had a zloty for every CD I ordered from a Polish distributor, only to find that it was on Bandcamp all along…
after a long day at work i jump on NCS and find this 🙂 it’s off to bandcamp i go, thank you!!!
Finally, a review from the latest album of my favorite German band.. And a very well-written one too! Even though I prefer their 2010 effort over this one, this one’s an absolute blast to listen too and the review reflects that really well. Thanks for the good read!
I was going to agree with you… but I honestly can’t say there’s much between Exit, 16 and Aetas Cineris for me… they each have a slightly different form/focus.