I don’t mean to exaggerate but, what the musician under the pseudonym Asthâgul has been doing since 2017 is pretty impressive: Six full length albums and an EP in just five years, developing his own fantastic mythology and playing all the instruments on each album, which are way more than just guitar, bass and vocals. If BAL-SAGOTH, CALADAN BROOD or SUMMONING, main musical influences for this project, can be considered as creative associations, as they are integrated by various members, the person behind ESOCTRILIUM just delegates the technical work like production and mixing in other people. Something quite ambitious, perhaps overly.
In a kind of Lovecraftian story, Asthâgul tells during the 80 minutes of the album the «death, transfiguration and rebirth of the Serpent Telepath«. A synopsis that proves to be as difficult to digest as the music. Because it’s not just about testing the technological limits of any CD, we are talking about a dense and baroque symphonic black / death with so many details and changes that are impossible to be captured on numerous revisitations, being the front-to-back listening of the entire album in one sole session an impossible task, at least not without losing concentration.
In addition, the French musician does not employ any kind of introduction, so that we soon understand what his odyssey is going to be about. «Ezkikur» with a melodic black metal, whose flutes and keyboards are an indivisible part of its sound, brings us closer to Middle Earth rather than a cosmic nightmare. The presentation is unbeatable, because although I sense that mixing so many layers must have been hell on earth, the production’s perfect duality has been achieved: It’s quite easy to get carried away by the segments of the song that the author wants us to pay attention to. If he wants us to to focus on the violins at a certain moment, we will, plain and simple. But if we already familiar with this record, we also be easily able to fix our ears on the guitars, even when they aren’t on the spotlight. A rule that can be applied to the entire album and not just specific details.
From there on, influences and similarities get us to see different angles of the same project. The symphonic one weighs the most, especially on the first cuts, going so far as using an organ in «Tyurh«, recalling somwhat GEHENNA, the first band who had the courage (or the unconsciousness) to introduce it into the then narrowed mind-setting of black metal. But the elegance showed off during the earliest songs, completely fells off when we have already gone through the halfway point, transforming «Dy’th» into a death metal song that has nothing to do with its predecessors. Even Asthâgul‘s voice changes so radically that he could pose as another vocalist. Except for the exception of «Craânag«, which is a fully symphonic track, the second part of the album takes on much harsher overtones. The keyboards and pianos will return, but they will have to race against, for example, a very pronounced double bass drum, reaching its zenith in «Xuiotg» with any devoid of speed limits in its intermediate section, deeply resembling to AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED.
However, even with all these virtues, Dy’th Requiem for the serpent telepath has an important flaw in its DNA, which makes me consider it a bad album but a magnificent collection of songs. Eighty minutes can become overwhelming, even acknowledging that some authors can be justified with long concept albums like this one. Like a writer that needs one thousand pages to write a novel.
All the variety I have talked about it is only appreciable during short listening sessions, dividing the work into many segments. Otherwise, it’s very easy for all the ideas presented here to end up looking similar and repetitive. Because make no mistake, all these contrasts that I point out, are in relative terms. I have illustrated it with the most over-the-top examples, but it would be foolish to ignore that «Tyurh» and «Baahl Duthr» are blood relatives. And it does not take many track in a row for everything to become a sonorous ball if we do not pause the music player soon enough. Because top detailing and Baroqueness have a price. The only real difference I find lie within the first six songs and the second six, given the death metal turn that I mentioned before.
Asthâgul himself divides this work into four parts of three songs, but on a purely musical level, I don’t see four, but barely two. And I’m sure on a lyrical level it might have complete sense, but it is not what I perceived after numerous listens. Even the occasional tracklist position is debatable.
Despite this, all the songs are worth it. They are an ideal exercise in how to combine thousands of references and elements in just four, five or seven minutes. I might have even been too brief on naming everything each song can offer us. Although, it is mandatory to be able to come up with the right dose in order to fully enjoy it.