Asphagor – “The Cleansing” (Black Sunset / MDD Records)
The 3rd outing for these Tyrolean terrors, “The Cleansing” shows there’s a whole lot more to these Austrians than a standard black metal affair! Already receiving critical acclaim for their first 2 releases, followed by a multitude of shows in Germany and Italy with Destruction, God Detroned and Belphegor, as well as performing at Metalfest Open Air, Helion Festival, and the Dark Easter Metal Meeting with Enslaved and Dark Fortress, the band have worked closely from the outset with German underground luminary, Patrick W. Engel, which may explain where their finesse in the utilisation of spoken word, ambient passages and other extreme metal styles emanates. As such, while being a black metal band and proud to say so, Asphagor’s undoubted appeal is in their material which is fresh and enthralling, with little doubt as to its energy and ferocity! From the bombastic ‘Circle Of Abaddon’ with its crashing riffs and pounding drum work graced by clanging melodies which soon whirr into speed as Morgoth’s hateful rasps come in amid some prog-ish sounding fret board work and even more soulful melodies, it’s pretty clear that Asphagor pack in a lot into their songs, many of which run into the 7 minute mark. On ‘Ardor’ the bass adds to a strong underlying melodic groove overlaid by more clanging guitar work, although powerful rhythmic changes give a strong epic tone to the song, backed by the superb precision double bass drum work from M.E. Sargoth and made all the more so through the highly atmospheric ambient mid section, contrasted beautifully by the wailing guitars from Hybreos and Atlas – excellent! Bringing it all home, at least for me, was ‘(In The) Sea Of Empty Shells’ which started off calmly enough through its ethereal guitars and spoken word, only to smash in violently with a barrage of heavy bass and smashing drums before roaring off until detonating into blast beats with the guitars piling in as much savage riffola as soothing melodies – unbelievable! Well worth a listen, “The Cleansing” left me both breathless and deeply impressed.