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Aspidium - Harmagedon - 90%

Edmund Sackbauer, September 22nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent

I stumbled upon the German outfit Aspidium via one of their videos, where they did this Batushka thing – you know, some evil guys with hoods standing more or less like statues and play some hefty music. There have been quite a few bands having jumped on this bandwagon over the past few years, but you would do Aspidium (and yourself) a disservice to diminish them to any kind of copycats. While surely fishing in the same pond band leader Kurt Jason Kelderer and everyone who might have been involved in this album as well has made sure that the second full length “Harmagedon” is very nicely done slab of blackened death metal with enough own identity.

This man has a feeling for good songwriting, varying between speed attacks and slower, filthy parts that give the whole affair the required dark and brooding atmosphere. The main chords are often stoic and the guitar lines can show a certain feeling of monotony. That might sound a bit negative in the first place, but in combination with the rumbling bass and the straight pounding of the drums the result is a very hypnotic and convincing piece of music. The trademark riffs are repeated over and over again, but they are often slightly varied making the tracks sound a bit similar at first but during consecutive listens a lot of small twists can be discovered. One just has to look beneath the simple and basic surface of the music to detect these subtle details.

The drums seem to be one of the driving forces of Aspidium at first glance, with plenty of running kicks, ride tings, cymbal splashes, fills, and pattern changes fueling the energy of the guitars. That being said the main star might be the cool guitar work, that is responsible for some highly enjoyable moments. There are enough songs and sections which are littered with plenty of great guitar parts, from stoic main themes to touches giving way to building, tapping leads to the breakout riff, before a hooky chorus is presented.

The opening and title track is starting slowly with a nice and groovy main riff, before the second song “Welt vorm Kollaps” is kicking things into full gear. The riffs are never sacrificed for the focus on atmosphere, breaking out in thrash-ready momentum that reminds of bands who got famous while riding the second wave of black metal. Plenty of lead tremolo work scatters across the songs, adding an edge of melodicism to Aspidium’s sound which puts their music above a lot of their peers.

The vocals are also expertly done, with Kurt switching between a classic barking black metal tone and a mid-range style. Thy lyrics are surprisingly thoughtful, with actual themes and problems of real life being critically reflected. The urgent delivery and the often dramatic guitar melodies form a great combination, highlighting the intense nature of the record.

The production is well done, very clear and punchy. Some might not be too happy with the drums, which are probably programmed. However, I have no issue here as they are perfectly serviceable and the stars of the show are anyway the guitar harmonies and the eerie vocals. Overall “Harmagedon” is a very interesting album, and if you can look behind the strange video clips and the somehow slightly goofy name of the album you get a fantastic piece of music. The artwork is also top notch, so adding a physical version to the collection highly recommended.