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Avichi

The Divine Tragedy

NMB Records

Avichi is the new outlet from Aamonael, formerly of Illinois' Nachtmystium. Cadging his name from a theosophical conception of hell where we remain the same after death, endlessly tormented by our own earthly desires and no relief on a cold, unforgiving astral plane, Avichi is clearly an attempt by Aamonael to wrestle with his inner demons and depressions, while at the same time ruthlessly pursuing his own artistic visions without the constraints of a band. Clearly, hell is other people, and The Divine Tragedy is an impressive debut from this musician.

The Divine Tragedy begins as a savage, inexorable blast of martial black metal akin to Marduk, Immortal, and Watain with "Purifications Within the Eighth Sphere." Aamonael's vocals are rumbling and full-throated, deep roars of rage. The music is suffocating and inexorable; icy, discordant riffing, thrashy interludes, and some great double-bass runs. The first handful of songs follows along these lines as an implacable wall of sound. And then... something happens.

"Prayer For Release" is a total departure from what has come before, a melancholic, mantra-like instrumental; spry percussion leaps around and entwines a delicate latticework of folklike drones. That same sense of experimentation invigorates the next number "Taedium Vitae" with a double-tracked central riff that reminds me of Fairport Convention/Jimmy Page played over and over again at a deliberate, restrained pacing. In contrast to the blazing speed workouts before, this one is more threatening, slow-burning, with Aamonael's unhinged screams and evocations bringing the darker menace. Indeed from that instrumental, Avichi becomes freer and more unrestrained in terms of an individual aesthetic. No longer needing to prove himself the most heavy, "Aeonic Disintegration" begins on a suicidally downcast note, with delicate minor fingerpicking and then at the ring of a gong explodes into this transcendent heaviness, like a blackened version of the ecstatic crunch of Radiohead's "Creep" or shoegazish clouds of darkened sound -- you barely even notice when the screams set in, you're too busy vibing to the rising, rising plumes of sound -- the riffing is cyclical, but ever upward. This is good. "Separation From the Life Principle" ends the album with a note of malevolent ambiance, not a song, not much sound to focus on, except for humid silence and vibrations of heartbeat-like percussion; a broken bell tolling for the long dead.

NMB Records: www.nmbrecords.com