(Andy Synn reviews the new album by the UK’s Ageless Oblivion, which was released March 17.)
It’s been some time since we’ve checked in with the boys from Ageless Oblivion. After rattling more than a few cages with their stellar debut Temples of Transcendent Evolution, the band have now returned with their sophomore release Penthos, expanding on and redefining their esoteric, atmospheric death metal delivery into something utterly malevolent.
Way back in August 2012 I had the (dubious) pleasure of interviewing AO guitarist Dave Porter, during which we touched upon the ongoing process for this album. His response was illuminating, stating that:
“So far the songs have been a lot more focused on creating a mood and a vibe of tension/release. We’re focusing a bit more on melody… in the hypnotic or generally claustrophobic sense… we’re aiming to write the darkest and most vicious record we possibly can.”
And I’m more than happy to tell you that the band have done exactly what they set out to do. This is a phenomenal album, in the truest sense of the word.
From the moment that the swelling dissonance at the start of “Wolf’s Head” explodes into inhuman life, you can tell this is going to be something special, as the song unleashes a veritable downpour of tumultuous technical torment and bleak blackened brutality, wrapped in a constricting web of looping bass-lines and feverish structural shifts. The album barely pauses for breath before “The Midas Throat” disgorges its hellish mix of cybernetic riffs and pulsating demonic rhythms, rending and tearing, flaying and lacerating, with callous precision and remorseless savagery.
The primal fury of “Glacial Blood” channels the same sort of dissonant aggression as New Zealand’s own masters of disaster, Ulcerate, its grinding graviton grooves and warped spasms of propulsive disharmony drowning the listener beneath waves of swelling oceanic force. Its vicious hooks and dragging, tidal undertow generate an inescapable vortex of bleak, atmospheric horror and torn, tortured melody that permeates every strangled note and crushing riff.
The unashamedly epic “Where Wasps Now Nest” is the progressive cornerstone of the album, 12 merciless minutes of apocalyptic sound and titanic fury. From its moody beginnings – all neurotic discordance and sludgy atonality – it grows into a visceral monster of wrenching drums and teeth-gnashing vocals, where swarming tremolo riffs and flashes of stark, barren melody intertwine with crashing, monolithic chords progressions and moments of soothing ambience to produce a cataclysmic pandemonium of chaos and (dis)order.
“Submergence” offers a haunting interlude of tense, musical psychosis whose uneasy balance is soon shattered by the jolting rhythms and neck-snapping technical riffery of “Furnace”. Its scrambling, thrashy drum beats bleed bestial aggression, overlain with a scathing shroud of acidic guitar work – strings stretched to breaking point and beyond by every tortured tremolo run and angular, down-picked chug – culminating in a pulverising crush of rusted chords and scattergun drums.
Back-breakingly heavy and claustrophobic, “Those Who Fed of Light” welds together a series of iron-clad, molten metal riffs into an airtight monstrosity of punishing pistons and grinding gears, building slowly towards an unexpected digression of blissful, harmonic ambience. Bursting with discordant hooks and laced with touches of strychnine melody, it’s one of the most instantly effective, ruthlessly efficient tracks on the album.
The ominous atmosphere that shrouds “A Crawling Ingression” permeates every jagged riff and juddering drum beat with sheer malevolence. The frenzied, glass-chewing vocals spit spite and venom while a cacophony of seething, blackened riffs and bulldozing drums drives the song through a frantic series of whiplash-inducing contortions and neck-snapping rhythmic transformations which meld intricate intelligence with malicious intent.
The album concludes with the two-part odyssey of “Penthos”. Its first movement “Lament” begins life as a slow-burning conjuration of haunted auras and hazy ambience, distant drones and echoing vibrations shaking the air, before a thunderous eruption of doom-laden chords and gloom-drenched disharmony signifies the arrival of a vast and overwhelming sonic storm. The asphyxiating darkness it brings forth plunges the listener into a tempest of barbed, broken riffs and raging, blast-furnace vocals, while ravenous drums crack the earth, unleashing the full and unrepentant fury of their elemental might.
What follows is the post-apocalyptic aftermath of “Omnipresent” , whose sombre vibe slowly builds into a colossal edifice of smouldering volcanic riffs and choking desolation, home to treacherous currents of windswept melody and bone-crunching avalanches of battering percussive power, beneath which lurks an ever-present undercurrent of insidious entropic decay, dragging us all towards our inevitable end.
I can confidently say, with only a hint of hyperbole, that what Ageless Oblivion have created here is a veritable masterpiece of modern death metal, a genetic abomination of blackened brutality and brooding atmosphere.
Worthy standard-bearers for a new generation, the band’s sound has grown to become a mind-bending mix of calculated lethality and biomechanical occult sorcery, whose potential can only be limited by the scope of their ambition.
Truly this is state of the art, 21st century Death Metal at its very best.
Penthos is out now via Siege of Amida Records and can be ordered in physical form at this location. It’s available digitally on iTunes and Amazon mp3. The entire album is still streaming at Terrorizer (here), and this is one of the album tracks: