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New Zealand is not a country exactly renowned for having many metal acts. Her most famous export, Demoniac, no longer exists. However, for what the country lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality. Four bands in particular stand out in the scene, Dawn of Azazel, Idvarp, Backyard Burial and Aphelon.
Aphelon play a brand of somewhat melodic Death Metal (in the non-geightenburg sense) with restrained hints of Black Metal (mostly of the Norwegian variety). There are, quite literally, countless influences on this EP. Nods are given to the (criminally underrated) Pennsylvanian death metal scene of the late-eighties, especially in the drumming. The intermittent harmonics sounds like a slightly less barbaric Vader or Behemoth, the tremolo picking is reminiscent of most Norwegian black metal, and the acoustic passages used sparingly throughout the album reminds the listener of Australian Black Metallers, Astriaal (although I see this as a coincidence, rather than an actual influence). However, to my ears, the major inspiration to this group of young Kiwis seem to be Amon Amarth.
The production is indeed polished, as mentioned in the review below. Whether this was intended, I do not know, but it does take away some of the “savagery” normally associated with death metal. However, I do like this subtle sound, although I would expect fans of “br00thul” DM to be turned off.
Aphelon is not a band that allows one instrument to dominate the sound. Most Death Metal bands today often permit the drums to govern their music, but this is not the case with Aphelon. Each and every instrument is clearly audible, and each is placed in very capable hands.
The low point of the album in my opinion is the acoustic interlude around the 2:15 mark of the second track “Opposing the Pityfilth”. To my ears, the passage sounds somewhat awkward.
The high point of the album is by far the chant cum clean vocals (reminding the listener of Iuvenes) at the bridge on the fourth track, A Silent Drowning.
Special mention must be given to the excellently written and original lyrics. Okoi’s distorted vocals are comprehensible enough to make them out, which is another plus point.
All in all, this is an excellent release by what should be a highly acclaimed band in the near future.
Hailing from the bizarrely named New Zealand city of Christchurch (most often referred to as Antichristchurch by its less pious residents), Aphelon purveys a unique blend of modernized death metal with some black metal influences. This is only their second demo, remixed and re-released as a 5-song mini CD, yet already they've staked out an individual sound. Not bad going at all if you ask me. These 5 tracks clock in at nearly half an hour, and thus it's practically a full-length album. The band throws all sorts of elements into their whirling maelstrom of sound - the songs flow effortlessly between chunky, pinch-harmonic laden death metal savagery and a more melodic, tremolo-picking black metal- inspired approach, interspersed with some unusual rhythmic naunces. The rhythm section backs this up with fluid, subtle driving percussion, although the bass is somewhat buried in the mix.
Speaking of production, it's not too bad, but I do have a couple of minor quibbles. It sounds a bit too polished for my liking - it's nowhere the searing wall of glistening plastic achieved by a lot of modern death metal acts, but it lacks the in-your-face power of the more live-sounding feel of a good analog production. The vocals, too, are often drenched in a weird distortion effect, which is somewhat overused to my ears. Still, the moments where they speed up and the vocal effects vanish provide some truly devastating moments, and the strange production becomes increasingly irrelevant. Either way, it fails to detract from the listening experience.
The highlight here is undoubtedly the second track, "Opposing The Pityfilth", which shoves a particularly vicious riff in your face during the chorus and segues into a dark, morbid chorus. "A Silent Drowning", too, is a killer track, and brings in an excellent soaring bridge section with completely uneffected clean vocals - this part is just fucking excellent, and leads back into crushing heaviness with stunning fluency. It's always obvious that these guys know how to manipulate their instruments - this is certainly no amateurish garage band, and it's obvious that with a slightly more varied approach to songwriting and a more powerful production, they easily have the potential to create some intense, violent death metal. They're already most of the way there as it is, so I avidly suggest keeping an eye on their future development, as Aphelon are set to make quite an impact on the international extreme metal scene in the next couple of years.
Originally published at www.metalcrypt.com © 2003