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From Hong Kong come Aum, a name synonymous with pathological insanity and mentally deranged cult leaders. I don't know how much of an impact lyrically Shinrikyo had on this project, but the name is awesome in my book. Anyway, five songs with a massive fifteen minute long droning ambient piece present themselves paired with some rather unique artwork and packaging which adds to the allure "Of Pestilence" creates. Several different styles are present across the release and together they create an array of black metal styles and influences. Musicianship is great on this, production is well done for an underground release - it sounds neither lo-fi and amateur but nor does it sound modern and polished. Instruments are all clear and crisp.
The most distinct factor on the album is the vocals of Tsar who sounds like a croaking reptile lord across the majority of songs like "Temple" and "Place of the Skull." Elsewhere he sounds genuinely sickly, coughing and hacking all over the the place once again in tracks like "Place of the Skull" and "The Forge of Zurvan." I feel illness coming on just listening to it. John Tardy is present across the album with Tsar spitting and grunting incoherently in between riffs and generally laying to tape a disgusting vocal performance that really is the highlight here. Another precision reference for Aum would be 1349's 2010 album Demonoir, which I liked a lot. Aum do a good job of setting the stage for atmosphere without it actually having to be the album's goal - similar to what I felt Demonoir did. The rhythmic style of Aum and the melodic movements all remind me of the black metal super group from Norway.
Other highlights include the riffs of Disease Fiend, a talent carried over from Aortic Regurgitation. A quick run through of the tracks offers several different styles and methods. "Temple" and "Place of the Skull" sound like a combination of Absu and simplified Melechesh. "Sheath To All Swords" has a repetitive marching plod indicative of too many beers and too much Beherit and Hellhammer. Elsewhere though Aum sounds more influenced by bands like Primordial such as on the release's longest Black Metal track, "The Forge Of Zurvan," which is my personal favorite on the album slightly edging out "Sheath's" heave-ho rhythm. While "The Forge" is a bit long - it runs a respectable eight minutes - well placed melody lines at the end of the track and a brisk middle section keep the song moving along and shouldn't result in complaints from commentators.
The final track is fifteen minutes of ambient music and it doesn't really add much to the release. While it is well written and composed to hide secret sounds and interesting noises throughout, it just seems like it's out of place on the release. Admittedly it's not listed on the album listing but it's definitely there and definitely needs to be accounted for since it takes up a third of the entire run-time of the release. I think leaving it off or using a shorter (much shorter) and refined version between the tracks might have fared better. Overall, excluding this ambient piece, "Of Pestilence" is a strong debut for the project and I would like to hear their next release, if they plan on putting anything else out.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones