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Not your average black metal music. - 83%

immortalshadow666, July 14th, 2009

As stated in the title, this is black metal, but not as you know it.

For the first part, it’s instantly noticeable that the production is smoother than a baby’s backside, and the instruments are tuned to absolute perfection. After the very cool and industrial sounding intro, “The Funeral Procession”, right from the opening note of “Ritual Hate Construct,” the searing blast of zero-to-maximum, it’s evident that these five Queenslanders know, at the very least, how to play their instruments. Everything is played more often than not at an absolutely breakneck pace. Astriaal certainly have their slower moments, so the wall of noise isn’t continuous and doesn’t get stale, but that’s not to say it’s a majority, and “Renascent Misanthropy” is without question a very extreme album that pushes the limits of tolerability in the human ear.

Vocals are rather stock standard black metal, but they complement the extremity in a good way. Only two thirds of the songs on the album contain any lyrics, but when Arzarkhel is singing, it’s never overblown, the levels are done well, and it all just comes together perfectly. There can’t be a shred of doubt, whether you like this album or not, that Astriaal are a talented group of musicians.

The ultimate highlight track though, is the head-and-shoulders-above-just-about-every-black-metal-song “Glories of the Nightsky”. This song alone simply cannot possibly have enough praise heaped on it. All the elements that could potentially make a great song are in this one: Beautiful clean guitars, leads used to great effect, but still with a stunning amount of brutality during the metal parts. Perfect flow, hateful vocals. Drums that do their job with no fuss but don’t show off. If you buy “Renascent Misanthropy” for one song alone, you absolutely must make it this one.

One thing that can be said about Astriaal is that they’re a very black and white band. When it’s clean, it’s clean. When it’s heavy, it’s heavy, and there’s no stuffing around trying to blend the two together – it’s just these two extremes. They’re very business-like about what they do as well, like it takes no effort to play such insanely extreme music that resembles more strongly in sound to their countrymates, Sadistik Exekution, than it does to any form of traditional old school black metal.

Finishing with another industrial outro, The Halls of Perdition has its similarities to the intro track, yet is starkly different. Spooky is a good word to describe these two tracks, they are very fitting respective openers and closers to a unique album.

Points taken off for some slightly generic riffing in a few of the songs – notably in “Revere The Labyrinth”, but there is rarely a dull moment in this album. It’s a shame that most of the quality Australian acts seem to disappear before they get too much achieved, as this is Astriaal’s only studio album to date. I am one person who will be hoping that one day, maybe, just maybe, they’ll release another full length, and that it’ll be in the vein of this terrific album.