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Lost Wisdom of a Cosmic, Otherworldly Nature - 97%

bayern, March 2nd, 2017

When one delves deeper into the metal underground, he/she would come up with outbursts of stunning originality and creativity that the mainstream could only hint at here and there. With regards to the trash metal world some of the technical/progressive pioneers (Mekong Delta, Watchtower, Deathrow, Toxik, Realm, Target, Sieges Even) received the requisite amount of recognition and acknowledgement; still, there were hordes of other equally as essential outfits who remain largely obscure entities, even after the advent of the Internet.

Astharoth are one of the top five unsung heroes from the progressive/technical thrash metal spectre, a band whose only official release (“Gloomy Experiments”,1990) is a milestone in the genre, one of the most fascinating blends of aggression and technicality ever encountered on the thrash metal circuit. My guess is what impeded them from playing a more prominent role on the metal field was their untimely decision to move to The States, San Francisco to be more precise, to join the Bay-Area hordes, and to keep raising the flag of classic thrash for another number of years. Well, they should have looked around first to see that the old school had been given a deadline, by the new aggro/groovy/industrial vogues in the early-90s, stretching up to 1-2 years maximum to wrap it on and go hibernate somewhere. And the Bay-Area was the place that was hit the worst by the new dictatorship; and not only that, but it also produced its first prominent “leader” (what a betrayal!) known as The Black Album…

Yes, the lads should have stayed in Europe where classic metal survived all the way to the mid-90’s, and where they would have had the chance to release more albums. Anyway, they made their choice and here they were, on the other side of The Atlantic. They got involved with the short-lived retro thrash metal act Epitaph first, before prolonging their career with a string of demos. It is this string of demos, excluding the “Self-Hatred” one, that has been compiled here, and which represents the finest unofficial follow-up to an official release in the annals of metal. The band were on creative bonfire on American soil as well as evident from the inordinately high quality of the material presented here; it’s a pity that those demos didn’t reach the ears of more fans back then…

Whether the material on the demos is a logical continuation of the sound from the full-length, that’s for everyone to decide for him/herself. These ears, however, experienced a trajectory that took the band into an equally as fascinating direction, quite different from the inimitable mixture of highly-classified abstractism and stunning aggressive “skirmishes”. Each demo comprises three tracks each, the first one,“Wisdom of the Blind”, starting with the title-track which is astounding progressive thrash ala Mekong Delta’s “Kaleidoscope”, and this triptich was released a whole year before the German’s magnum opus, with some of the most psychotic time and tempo-shifts ever put on vinyl. The excellent mean-ish clean vocals ably assist this surreal busy rifforama which is also carved by a dazzling lead section and several quite fast-paced strokes although nothing as brutal as those furious “hurricanes” on the debut. “Misplaced Senses” carries on with the weirdness which ranges from sudden galloping cuts to super-mazey spirals the vocalist continuing to do an outstanding job on the side helping his colleagues pulling off this most outlandish music which also knows a short quiet respite in the middle. “Nameless” is a less dramatic shredder with impetuous riffage intertwining with abstract bizarre motifs that sound both melodic and technical in a stupendous inimitable way.

“Limits” knows no ”limits” in terms of labyrinthine progressions, and the title-track begins in the most jarring jumpy manner with the German masters Mekong Delta again being the closest sound-alikes, no speedy excesses this time, though, except on one isolated stroke, those replaced by a breath-taking lead-driven balladic passage at the end. “Egos of Myself” is a creepy progressive thrasher with labyrinthine accumulations those reaching an untiable knot mid-way, a partial solution provided by a marginally less intricate dash later, the latter cancelled by the hyper-active technical “salad” at the end. “Accused” has the ungrateful task to follow after such a grandiose showing, but it has its niceties, mostly reflected in hectic Watchtower-esque jazzisms which alternate with relatively more conventional semi-balladic dramas the symbiosis intercepted by both twisted and melodic leads, abrupt elaborate sweeps, and a superb technical whirlwind again served as an epitaph.

The high score has already been more than justified, but the third demo is way more than just an afterthought. “House of Frustration” hints at some metamorphosis with its melancholic balladic intro, but at least it gives the excellent singer a chance to show more versatility; the song remains “stuck” in semi-balladic waters until the arrival of the title-track which is a sinister blend between Coroner’s “Grin” and 90’s Voivod the riffs creeping in a subdued, minimalistic fashion creating dense doomy atmosphere the latter “denied” by “Denial”, another otherworldly piece scratching the listener’s nerves in an organized robotic fashion ala Voivod again, the sterile mechanisms of the-90’s showing their “teeth” “grinning” confidently amidst the virtuous leads and the slightly more indifferent, but still cool, this time vocals.

In the long run it would be quite hard for one to decide which is better, the full-length or this extraterrestrial concoction of ultimately stylish progressive “musings”. The detrimental American surroundings didn’t spoil these fabulous Poles; they continued challenging and expanding the musical horizon releasing their timeless legacy in small portions thus making it easier to swallow by the unprepared masses. The last doze was an unmitigated compromise with the tastes of the time, hypothetically starting a new chapter which was undeniably going to bring more delights however modernized they would have been served. In an expected graceful manner, the band voted to fold it rather than settling for music that wouldn’t have been a genuine flow from their own creative pool. Things were still looking good in Europe again; the old school was still moving in Germany, Holland, and other parts of the old continent. True auteurs like Astharoth would have been an invaluable addition to the thrash front, even with a slightly more adapted sound like the last demo showed.

Whatever fate had designed for them, a fact remains that these guys (and a girl) created pure magic within a short span of time. Alas, that wasn’t enough for the American dream to work out for them, at least not from a musical point of view. The resurrection wave of the new millennium hasn’t seemed to inspire them for more exploits on the metal arena for the time being. Well, the fanbase should by all means be happy that one “lost world” has been found; and the search for the next one is already on, even if that other one may have not been created yet.