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Crown of Asteria > Cycles > Reviews
Crown of Asteria - Cycles

Soulful and beautiful BM folk ambient fusion - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 18th, 2016

Since forming in 2013, the nature-themed black metal / folk ambient project Crown of Asteria, helmed by Megan Woods, has given listeners a substantial discography to hear with a mix of albums and EPs. Unusually 2014 was a lean year with just two releases of which the EP "Cycles" is under my jaundiced eye for review. Another unusual thing to note is that of the two songs on this EP, the title track is a very short piece at 5 minutes while "Cassiopeia: Queen of the Skyline" is five times as long. The challenge for CoA is how to maintain listener interest in a very long instrumental meditation on the Cassiopeia constellation - and through that, the mystery of the universe and humanity's place and purpose in it - and incorporate enough variety, emotion and atmosphere in a piece bound to wander in many directions without losing focus.

Beginning with gradual fire-crackle and wind ambience, and working her way through gentle acoustic guitar melodies into black metal fire, as if describing a secret ritual, Woods draws her audience deep into her world of silent and dark pine tree landscapes and up to cloudless night skies where expansive cosmic vistas beckon. The ritual of transition is not very long but it can be very emotional and intense. Searing-hot black metal guitar erupts and blazes away in a succession of often hellish-sounding and abrasive riffs and melody loops. At about the halfway mark the music recedes into an acoustic guitar passage and for a while both folk and BM co-exist before another outburst of blackened fire. The only thing here that detracts from the music is the astoundingly limp percussion which is not needed at all and if anything puts a brake on the music's free flow and expression. As if answering my prayers, the track does detach from its percussion moorings and floats adrift in quiet meditation and serenity.

The short "Cycles" piece is a gorgeous poem of lush, wet forest ambience with trembling and surprisingly frantic guitar melody and echoing night-insect crackle. Repetition and layered acoustic guitar riffs generate an intense emotion and trance-like dream atmosphere. As it is, the track is beautiful and has a definite humid feel but I think it could have been even better if it had been a bit longer and included a strong melody culminating in a dramatic flourish.

This EP would have been great rather than just above-average if the tracks had been more evenly matched in length and variety of music, and if "Cassiopeia ..." had lost the percussion and been allowed to roam the universe, free of all earthly attachments, for its entire length. The two pieces of music would have become more complementary and be two sides of a unity. Apart from these criticisms though, I bow down to Woods' ability to compose such soulful and beautiful BM folk fusion music that encompasses yearning for and closeness to nature and the stars.

Majestic Instrumental Black Metal - 93%

lord_infernus, April 12th, 2014

Crown Of Asteria is one Meghan Wood from Minnesota. The sounds that she produces will shock many a metalhead, not convinced that a girl belongs in metal. She definitely knows her way around a guitar better than most males. She has released a few splits and demos so far and one full-length (the amazing "North" released earlier in the year). Her earlier material had black metal vocals on the songs, but she has since dropped those. Doing that seems to have given her more confidence as the songs she has been producing since are nothing short of masterful.

I am reviewing the cassette version of the EP out on Sylvan Screams Analog Records. Since the EP is only 2 songs, I don't see how it could hurt to discuss them both? The first song, centerpiece, and bulk of the record is called "Cassiopeia: Queen Above The Skyline" and from the title I would guess it's about the constellation. This song is one behemoth of an instrumental, and at just over 25 minutes itself it's longer than most EPs. When a song is of this length, it's definitely hard for it to hold someone's attention, not to mention when the track is instrumental, but Ms. Wood composes music like some directors make films.

Cinematic and majestic are the two words that come in my mind when listening to CoA. I could lie on my back and close my eyes and these songs could take me to a million different places. The most obvious influences at work here would be Ulver and Enslaved. There is a coldness to the riffs that I guess could come from someone living in a place like Minnesota. This song twists and turns and goes through somber periods, and when it arrives at the end you feel as though you have been on a journey. The second track, "Cycles", at about 5 minutes long and is more of an afterthought. Not that it's a bad song, it's just more quiet and stays in the same feeling for the duration, kind of like a meditation period of calm after the amazing "Cassiopeia".

Having the entire EP on both sides of the tape is perfect, because I instantly want to turn it over and play it again! If first by "North" and now "Cycles", Meghan is showing us that she is moving on past traditional black metal into a more "cinematic" area of metal, and I am all for that. Not many musicians can use their guitar like a painter uses his brush, but she does. I know that with Crown Of Asteria at the helm, I am libel to adventure anywhere in my mind. I cannot recommend this enough. Few points taken off for it just not being long enough, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Get this tape now if you are a fan of the above mentioned groups or Agalloch, Alor, or October Falls.