Catching Apostate Viaticum live some months back was as frustrating as almost any gig in Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge.
To wit, that the great bands one gets to see there are too often incomprehensible owing to the sonic lottery the venue seems to present.
Stand in one place and its magic; another and it’s a sonic soup.
On the evening I caught them, it was the latter. Yet what I do vividly remember about it is how they fought through – and how the sound did eventualy coalesce around their title track after those reverbed crunches.
After that eerie feedback intro, the slow weight of the riff allows for a generous and full sound to establish itself, and begin the huge Immolation and Incantation influence that permeates their music.
Inevitable comparisons will be made with Morphosis, from whom two of their number come.
Apostate are a pretty different beast, in truth – much slower for a start, and not as keen for the jugular bite as either ‘Malleus Malleficarum’ or the super ‘Rise Of The Bastard Deities’.
And perhaps its that lack of freneticism which has had some commentators moan that this new evolution sounds basic by comparison.
I’ll admit to being taken aback as well. This band is about purpose and atmosphere, not quick hits: so when ‘Anathema Inherent’ builds to a squall of wails, harmonics, feedbacks and divebombs, I hear the black spirit of ‘Hell Awaits’ coursing through moreso than any pure musical comparison.
Indeed some of it falls into an almost sludgy death metal territory, with the likes of ‘Moloch The Sanguinary’ feeling more Asphyx than anything else, with those strangely discordant chords layered over the riff.
Moments like that sound jarring – is it the sound of some confused musicianship, or a genuine jolt from the strange choices? I’m not sure I fully have the answer after repeated listens. The blended notes sound all wrong. Yet perhaps that was intended.
There’s another facet of their music that perhaps makes it seem blunter than it otherwise might: it’s that Andy Inight’s blastbeats always hit the snare on the first stoke, giving it a coarse and bludgeoning feel rather than a sharper cut.
To be critical of the release I’d say they really ought to have thought that through a bit harder, as it can get a little tiresome – blastbeats need to be varied in death metal, and these guys are old and wise enough to know that the first stroke on the snare general gives a very specific vibe.
Could you call it martial in tone? You might: but that doesnt really fit with what they’re doing, I’d suggest.
It is of course powerfully heavy. Inight’s rolling tom work in ‘In The Shadow Of The Monolith’ is huge, adding to the oppression of the riff. The offbeat style of ‘Bastards Of Cain’ too harks immediately to Immolation most satisfyingly.
There are no solos to speak of, few harmonies to gild the rougher riffs, and little concession to ease of listening generally save for the frequent breaks into 4/4 headbanging opportunities. The thick treacly chords, the omnipresent harmonic bends and a deeply laboured feel make it quite demanding.
Approaching it from the Autopsy, Asphyx, Immolation and Incantation schools of sludged death metal is the most rewarding – that’s to say prizing gloom over bloodlust. You will not get a quick hit out of any of this.
And if its a case of developing a long, brooding and benighted atmosphere with these tracks then they’ve certainly done so. The album highlight title track certainly speaks to that. It is superb.
A little more sonic varity would have made it more palatable, perhaps with a slightly defter approach to the drumming, whose heavy handed force of delivery can actually get a bit much – more nuance would have been appreciated – but I sense that is not what their music is trying to achieve.
Still it has to be noted that the final two tracks pack more variety and spice into them than everything that preceded them. Frustrating!
I must say I’m not surprised it’s proven a somewhat divisive release at home: it’s difficult. But it’s consistently oppressive, dark, and has its own space in the annals.
3.2 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 10/04/17