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Massive improvement over the EP - 90%

chaossphere, March 13th, 2006

Aphelon's first proper full-length album is a stellar example of the adage "if no one else can do it, do it yourself". Specifically, the self-production on this album completely blows away the muddy, over-polished mess which somewhat marred the first EP The Ethos Elite. This time, the music is presented in a raw, no-frills and very "live" sounding mix, which suits the band's sound perfectly. That said, the actual music is still rather difficult to describe. It's a complex, multi-faceted combination of epic heavy metal, blackened atmosphere and crushing old-school death metal. The hour-long album combines two short instrumentals, three re-recorded tracks from the EP, four completely new songs and a cover of obscure NZ doom band Sinistrous Diabolus' "Wipe Out Christianity".

The four new tracks are by far the highlight. Particularly "Miasma (Scorn Shall Prevail", a 10+ minute mega-epic full of twisting moods and soaring highlights. "Bloodborne" also destroys everything in its path, being the most aggressive Aphelon composition to date. Elsewhere, the reworked EP tracks easily destroy the original versions, although for some reason the clean-vocal passages in "A Silent Drowning" don't quite have the same impact – a bit more reverb on the vocals would have probably helped here. As it is it's a very dry production job, allowing the music to speak for itself instead of drowning in compression and layers of effects, and works very well.

This won't be easy to get hold out outside New Zealand, being another independent release through the still-young Lycanthropic Fervour label, but it's worth the effort of mailordering direct from the label. The packaging also deserves extra mention – once again, this is a CDr, but the layout is amazing. The cover art is an extremely cool painting depicting an army of skeletons riding over terrified medieval peasants, printed on nice thick glossy cardstock with full lyrics printed inside – in a simple black font on white background, so you don't need to strain your eyes just to read them, which reminds me of how CD booklets used to be before designers became obsessed with excessive photoshop wankery. Excellent stuff.