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Stillness grows, doom breathes - 75%

i_Chaos, May 31st, 2010

Promising doom purveyors Aphotic provide maximum misery for your money, compiling their entire discography onto one release, thanks to a distribution deal with Flood the Earth. Stillness Grows contains all three of the band’s independent EPs in reverse chronological order, beginning with the Stillness Grows EP, which is followed by Under Veil of Dark and their self titled debut. Typically, career spanning collections like these (especially from independent bands) suffer in listenability, because when presented together, the material seems inconsistent in quality, sound and sometimes style. Not so with Stillness Grows, which shows satisfactory development in style, but remains of consistent production and quality. Besides the obvious value of the collection, the album serves as a thorough introduction to a band that is wholly deserving of exposure.

Aphotic was formed in Wisconsin in 2000, out of the ashes of fellow Green Bay acts Dusk and Crawl. Their brand of doom is steeped in melancholy death metal and atmospheric melody. Unlike most doom acts, Aphotic keep their songs short and to the point, with nearly all the songs between two and four minutes long. Still, the music is expansive and hypnotic, which is a testament to effective songcrafting. The vocals, a rasp on the last EP and a more traditional growl on the first two, are contrasted by melodic guitar and keyboard lines that often provide an almost tranquil yet morose atmosphere. What is notable about this effective combination is that the styles compliment each other perfectly, yet each approach is somewhat diluted by the effect of the other. The band sounds neither overly aggressive nor excessively mopey. It is a true example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

The quality remains high between the three EPs, with the most noticeable development being the modified vocals of their most recent material, and the shift from drum programming to authentic drumming. The human element is a welcome addition, but the drum machine work is very competent. In fact, the heavy handed (fingered?) barrage of crashing cymbals during “Livid Dread” is one of my favorite moments on the album. In further evidence of their effective use of contrast, at times the band uses quicker, more full drum patterns during slower melodies and slower drumming during more active riffing. Highlights of the album include the ethereal “Vulnerable” and the building intensity of “Psychoma.”

The band has already recorded a follow up EP entitled To Find New Darkness, which will be released by Cursed Productions as a split with an unreleased Dusk EP, 1999’s The Slumber. Aphotic is entirely deserving of a recording deal and attention from the metal community, and hopefully their distribution deals will give them the exposure they deserve.