Monday, 31 August 2020

Astarium - Hyperborea


Labels: GrimmDistribution/Gravações Tunguska

Formats: CD/Digital

Release Date: 18 Apr 2020


Tracklist:


1. Mysterious Fog

2. The Wild Hunt

3. Doomed

4. Halls Of Winter Gods

5. When The Proud Die

6. Snow Storm

7. Sign Of Cosmic Might

8. For The King!

9. Battle Glory

10. Daughter Of Imir

11. Red Rose

12. Kill To Survive

13. Carpathian Windspirit

14. Curse From The Past

15. Lucky Bastard

16. Zhothaqquah


Diving back into the review pile revealed this, the 8th (and newest) full-length from Russia's symphonic/ambient black metal band Astarium. A familiar band to those who have been following this blog over the years. Hyperborea was recorded a couple of years ago before being self-released in March 2019. It has since been released on CD via GrimmDistribution (Ukraine) and Gravações Tunguska (Portugal). Astarium has always been an intriguing project for me, as in spite of being very productive, the creativity put into it by sole member SiN has always shone through.


This album contains sixteen songs, of which four are ambient/instrumental numbers like album opener ‘Mysterious Fog’. That may not seem like a positive statement to begin a review with,  but I’ll expand on it later on.


‘The Wild Hunt’ typifies Astarium’s approach to synth-led black metal. To some it may be an acquired taste, but it’s charm is unmistakable and here SiN provides a song that’s certainly more fun and avant-garde than normal thanks to the melodic keys and faster tempo.’ Doomed’ comes at you with a heavy dose of industrial atmosphere and majestic power from the powerful horn/orchestral tones that exist in between the brief guitar passages. 


When Astarium focuses it’s energy on slower songs, it show/s a completely different side to the band. ‘Halls Of Winter Gods’ is one such song and the lengthy opening passage makes you think that something mournful and slow is around the corner, but what it actually reveals and a mid-paced folk/black metal song that’s very well put together.


The mind is often misunderstood, especially when it comes to creatives and that’s definitely the case here. The tracks here follow on from each other well but also seem to be independent of each other, as if they were composed at random points during Astarium’s tenure (they possibly were) and then put together quickly to form this album. ‘When The Proud Die’ is an oddly meandering but short piece of black metal, which leads to ‘Snow Storm’, which provides somewhat of an escape thanks to it’s melody.


There’s a more accessible feeling about ‘Sign Of Cosmic Might’, mainly down to it’s structure and nod towards alternative music as well as just extreme metal. At least that’s how it comes across to me anyway. Feel free to tell me I’m talking rubbish here! Next up is another folk/medieval led song in the form of ‘For The King!’, which is also one the longest present on the album. In parts it’s mystical, while still being a challenging listen in same way that Norway’s Fleurety can be.


The instrumental interlude ‘Battle Glory’ retains the odd momentum that the album has, thanks to the use of upbeat tempos again and an air of fantasy. Brilliant played organ and woven samples make ‘Daughter Of Imir’ an obvious standout on Hyperborea. It sounds more accomplished and well rounded alongside the stirring guitar work and sensitive use of vocals throughout.


The brief chaos of ‘Red Rose’ that follows is a bit of a shock. I say that only because ‘Daughter Of Imir’ was such a complete song. Thankfully, ‘Kill To Survive’ brings that feeling back with whale-song and a cosmic atmosphere that’s as sinister as it is tuneful. The rest of the song is filled with Astarium’s signature ambient black metal.


The percussion on ‘Carpathian Windspirit’ takes centre stage, pulling the interlude through to it’s conclusion before ‘Curse From The Past’ fills the speakers with more upbeat extremity once again, though the constant melody that flows through it really does draw your ear in. Penultimate song ‘Lucky Bastard’ sounds like it could have been conceived during the writing of 2013’’s From The Cleaved Old Coffin, which contained two forty-second songs in very much the same vein.


Closing with ‘Zhothaqquah’, a song that draws in so many elements of Astarium’s creativity, it’s hard to deny that Hyperborea is a worthy album. Going back to my initial statement about those unmentioned songs (which are instrumental interludes), I was going to say that following my look over the album’s booklet, only twelve full songs are listed and therefore; those added instrumental songs may not have been needed; however, now that I’ve listened to the album in full, I really appreciate them. 


Even though at times it feels slightly disjointed, Hyperborea is a fascinating listen and it highlights moments from different parts of Astarium’s recording career, in the same way that compilations do for other bands. I’m not sure whether that was intended but it works all the same. 


You can stream and purchase Hyperborea digitally below:-



Astarium - https://www.facebook.com/astariumofficial/


Physical copies can be purchased via the link below:-


GrimmDistribution - https://grimmdistribution.bandcamp.com/


Grimmdistribution - https://www.facebook.com/grimmdistribution/

Gravações Tunguska - https://tunguskarec.blogspot.com

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