Astrophobos – Malice of Antiquity

Nostalgia can be a comforting thing sometimes. While some would hold that too much nostalgia can be a toxic thing, just enough is great to engage in. It helps soothe wounded hearts or it’s just a wonderful trip down a personal memory lane. Every once in awhile, something triggers that nostalgic feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on. When I moved from the south to Colorado, my first real snow storm triggered that feeling for me. Sure, it snowed in Georgia occasionally, but not so much that I had some intensely personal connection to it. But like clockwork, I will stare out the window and ogle at the sheets of white blanketing everything like a 9 year old after hearing school was cancelled. I got a very similar feeling to listening Astrophobos’ new record, Malice of Antiquity.

Stockholm’s own formed in 2009 by the bass and dual guitar trio of Micke Broman, Jonas Ehlin, and Martin Andersson. They make a wonderful throwback sound to Scandinavian second wave-style black metal albeit slightly more melodic in nature. It is a sound that absolutely nails the dark and evil nature of black metal. It spins tales of arcane secrets and bloody gore that will leave you haunted but intrigued. It is a delightful sound that scratches all the itches in just the right way.

Malice of Antiquity is no different. It starts immediately with “Fire of Catharsis”. Broman’s black metal grating scream gives way to a dual guitar threat of rhythm and melody and an onslaught of blast beats from session drummer Giuseppe Orlando. It’s an incredible addition to a track about demons inheriting the earth and immolating the holy. The chorus is what sells the track even more by embracing the dark melodies.

The guitar solos are the selling point to me. Both Ehlin and Andersson don’t necessarily rely on excessive noodling to make their points. Instead, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on melody and drama. Certainly the pair are capable of acrobatics, but they choose not to engage for the sake of it. Its all about serving the songs and is the more mature decision when it comes to songwriting.

The trio also dabbles with the folkier side of black metal. “The Summoning Call,” “Until the Red of Dawn,” and “Imperator Noctis” all introduce songs with melodic acoustic sections that build the tracks via musicality and songwriting mix-‘em-ups that serve them well. Sure, we all love when bands just go at it with speed and gnarly shredding guitar solos, but restraint is just as necessary when it comes to writing interesting and engaging music. It is the sign of mature musicians and songwriters. Don’t just engage in histrionics just because. Sometimes, you don’t need to.

That’s what makes this record good: the ebbs and flows of restraint versus engagement. Experienced songwriters know how best to construct a song, but only true artists know themselves. You should absolutely go for it when you know you’re in your element, but there is also value to not giving into impulses just because. Malice of Antiquity does exactly that. These songs are dark and black in the best ways. They aren’t cliched in a way that makes them seem like common tracks. This is a collection of songs that really exude mastery. If you want a well made black metal record, this is it

Malice of Antiquity is available January 18th, and can be pre-ordered on the band’s Bandcamp page.

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