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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.