Asphagor – Pyrogenesis (MDD Records)Wednesday, 22nd March 2023
With all of the different styles of black metal – symphonic, atmospheric, post, progressive, depressive, etc. – there’s a lot of directions one can go. The number of quality black metal bands of all of the above proclivities these days is immense, however, sometimes something more straightforward is what the corpse painted doctor ordered. Which brings us to Asphagor, an Austrian quintet who have been churning out intricate yet stripped down black metal for 16 years. This year brings their 4th full length Pyrogenesis, and true to form, it’s a fine addition to any collection.
If Asphagor is new to you, it’s sadly unsurprising – they’re not a name that has garnered overwhelming attention like the heavier hitters of the genre. That’s a crime, as if what the ears seek is expertly written, guitar-driven black metal, they should be near the top of anyone’s list of purveyors. Pyrogenesis is tightly written example of what fascinated this writer with the haunting chill that black metal can only provide – stinging buzzsaw guitars, detailed compositions, piercing growls/shrieks, and eerie atmospheres.
Once we get past the intro track “Ex Cathedra” – a lengthy 3-½ minute jaunt that sets the album up fine – we come to the gripping “Nine Moons,” which serves up a mid-range song flowing with precision. Highlighted by delectable leads of which are intricately layered with crunchy rhythm guitars, accompanied by a combination of chants and tonally excellent growls via Morgoth (lead vocalist, not the death metal band). “Matricide” leans heavily into building atmosphere with sharp songwriting; weaving a tale that stirs up ambiance via skillful instrumentation and slick changes of direction. A constantly building energy signifies “The Great Eronsion,” intertwining massive lead guitar pieces with snappy rhythms that increase tension throughout, resulting in one of the most memorable songs on Pyrogenesis.
Galloping guitars and downtrodden leads highlight “Scales of Retribution,” while title track evokes an old school Abigor/Carpathian Forest mix in its frigid essence. “The Summoning,” “Pavor Nocturnus,” and “The Architect” slow the pace towards the latter part of the album, breaking the momentum somewhat. There’s still notably enjoyable moments, especially in “The Architect,” highlighted by a well composed bridge serving as a fine example of mid-paced and crunchy black metal. Closer “Ghost of Aphelion” signs off with a fiery conclusion of instantly mesmerizing riffs and a multitude of twists.
Asphagor strips black metal down to its core properties, yet achieves being able to impress with astonishingly consistent and meticulous songwriting chops. The album may be somewhat long in the tooth for those with shorter attention spans, with a run time of just over an hour, but one can also say that there isn’t any filler present. Asphagor rumbles along with a purely enjoyable, technically proficient, and deftly executed release in Pyrogenesis that this writer will assuredly return to.