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An admirable effort, but not their best album - 70%

PorcupineOfDoom, December 31st, 2014

By this point in their career, Astarte had started to go down the melodic path with a release that could be described as being something along the lines of melodic black metal. It isn't quite as interesting as Demonized where they played melodic blackened death metal, but it does beat the bland black metal that they played beforehand.

First off, I have to say that the most interesting thing across this album is the use of keyboards. They really liven up the whole thing, because while the guitars have their moments they can't hold the songs by themselves like they were able to on Demonized. It is a different direction, but I can still enjoy what's being done here. The keyboard has a gentle tone about it but it actually fits in better than you might expect, as the music is more toned down than I had expected it to be. At times they take the lead, but for the most part they stick to hiding in the background like they did on Rise From Within.

The drums resort to simply bashing the cymbals and the snare for a large portion of the album, and there isn't really anything worth commenting on any further than that to do with the drumming. It's a shame, because the drumming on Demonized was immense at points and really made you feel the need to give a round of applause, but not so here. It is a different drummer, so I have to say that Ice (who played on the band's final release) is far and away superior.

As previously mentioned, the guitars are good at times. They do have their fair share of melodic sections that are decently done, but they lack the power that I'd hoped to find and at the end of the day they really do need the keyboards to hold them up and stop them from just floundering. The melodies also sound very samey and do feel repeated, but as on Rise From Within I could just listen to the stuff forever without feeling bored. Granted, I wouldn't feel too excited either, but it doesn't tire at a vast rate of naughts. Weird, I know, but that's the effect you get from this stuff.

There isn't really much to say about Tristessa's vocals either. As usual she sounds like she's influenced by traditional black metal more than death metal, but she never does all-out black metal screeches. Her voice does grow on you, so while you might not like it at first (I didn't) you will begin to as you listen to the music more.

All in all it shows a sign of the band moving in a more accessible direction than Rise From Within, but at the same time to me it is more enjoyable than regular black metal. Personally though I think Demonized is miles better than Quod Superius Sicut Inferius, and if you're after something either heavier or with better and more original sounding melodies then I'd point you in that direction.

Dryads driving a harder bargain - 72%

autothrall, August 1st, 2011

While it doesn't exactly break the mold established by the prior two Astarte albums, Quod Superius Sicut Inferius exhibited a superior songwriting effort. More versatile and arguably more accessible, there is a depth to the tracks here which was lacking in the colder compositional focus of its precursors, but the fundamental style of melodic black metal is still intact, as was the eye rolling vanity of once again including the ladies in the cover image, this time as a trio of dryad-like beings morphed into a gnarled tree. I still hear traces of Dissection and Immortal in their style, but much of the slower fare here could certainly be estimable to countrymen Varathron or Rotting Christ, so as its verdant face would imply, this was to its day the most 'Greek' of the Astarte releases.

"Reign Unfold" is a pretty close approximation of the previous albums, a glaring charge into the straits of desperation and loss, but immediately forgettable once the clean guitars and pianos of "Inflamed Paradox" roll out a more appreciable, atmospheric procession of archaic delights. I enjoy the faint tints of melody once the black metal chords roll out, and the choirs manifesting in the warlike bridge. Other strong moments include the steady, 8+ minute march of "Oblivious Darkness" with its folk-like melodies woven throughout, the angelic aggression of "Deep Down the Cosmos", and the potent elegance of "In Velvet Slumber". A few of the faster tracks play it safely to the band's roots ("Incarnate Legend of Mummy Queen", and the title track), but I quite prefer it where the band pace themselves at a medium gate and really let the guitars shine. That said, this is unnecessarily long effort, 66 minutes in total, and almost all the songs are substantial at 6-9 minutes in length, most of which could use 30-60 seconds of trim at the least.

The vocals are also pretty bland. Granted, we didn't have a wealth of female fronted black metal bands at the time (we still do not), so I'm sure Astarte weren't attempting to rock the boat all that much, but Tristessa just sounds like any other middle of the road European black metal rasper. The seeming gender neutrality just doesn't work in favor of this music. Where is all the witching potential? The screeching? The gorgon incantations? I would not at all mind if these Greeks flaunted their femininity just a little more in the music itself (we know they will on the covers). Hell, King Diamond is more effeminate than this. Quod Superius Sicut Inferius was surely the product of much effort. Considerable time was spent writing the compositions, and it was instrumentally and stylistically their best album to date. The production values are just as strong, if not stronger, than the first two records, but the triumvirate of sirens still lacked the distinctive characteristics to separate them from the lion's share of accessible European black metal acts. Could use a little more Circe and a little less Hades.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Typical Genesis-like Rotting Christ simulation - 67%

Scizzgoth, January 22nd, 2006

I can argue that the greek black metal has given really much to the sound, with such legends as Kawir, Necromantia, Varathron, Naer Mataron and Nocternity. Apart from Greece's dedication to black metal as a nation of musicians, I can personally testify that lots of women are listening to it and actively participate in bands.

Astarte happen to be one of those bands. A little bit of a gimmick, some hype, a few big names on the releases and a good support by Rotting Christ really made them get into the spotlight quickly. Their early material was suprisingly good black metal, reminding of the genre's earlier days. And of course, to know that such beauties were producing this infernal music... it was something original to say the least.

Sadly I can't say the same for Quod Superius Sicut Infernus. In fact, if I had to find words to describe it, "original" would be the first one I would rule out. The reason is that this is your typical, average, melodic to the bone, Borgir-insipired Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal, with not its own distinct personality. What went wrong here? I thought that a unique line-up can possibly bring in a new perspective into things.

When getting past the initial dissapointment that this truly tries to simulate the new scene of black metal, by copying bands like Old Man's Child, Hortus Animae or Dimmu Borgir, it all boils down to one question. How does it fare against the works that it tries to simulate?

The answer is "quite good". If you are a fan of the above bands, Quod Superius Sicut Inferius will probably be an enjoyable listen, from the blackened introductory track, to the more Summoning inspired Inflamed Paradox. The Rotting Christ influences could not be missed either, with songs like Deep Down The Cosmos, and I hope you are getting the point. There is something in here for everyone who listens to melodic black metal. Nothing is done exceptionally well, but it not a bore or a chore to listen through once.

I would recommend listeners to check out songs like In Velvet Slumber, for the more Rotting Christ inspired songs, Crossing The Wounded Mirror Of Death for something more symphonic and Dimmu Borgir influented, and Incarnate Legend of Mummy Queen for something slightly more closer to early black metal, in the vein of a mixture between Mayhem and early Rotting Christ.

All in all, a decent release, but I somehow already miss the kind of sound a band loses when it signs to a major label and tries to please all mainstream listening "black metal" fans out there. I am sadly not one of them, though I can appreciate what good moments this release has. And it has enough for me to not look down on it with disgust.