Finnish duo Aethyrick’s second full-length, Gnosis, is a punishment – but the kind of punishment you gladly keep going back for despite knowing better. The kind of punishment that makes you question yourself and your beliefs at every turn but are thankful for having your perceptions widened in the process. And, given the album name, that may well be Aethyrick’s intention – a soul-searching, often harrowing musical journey that is not afraid to shine a light into the darkest recesses of the psyche.
Stylistically, the vehicle Aethyrick employ on Gnosis (and on their 2018 debut, Praxis) is that of ritualistic black metal. Its atmospheric content favourably recalls the like of Drudkh, without straying too far into the realm of shoegaze/post-black, but, given the magickal and esoteric thematic content, an even better comparison would be the Czech outfit Cult of Fire. This more ambient avenue may seem out of keeping with national character given the commonly-held perception of the Finnish predilection towards a heavier, crust-based sound typified by the likes of Archgoat, Impaled Nazarene or Satanic Warmaster – but that doesn’t take into account the sprawling atmospheres of Horna, the synth-based experiments of Beherit or the psychedelic ramblings of Oranssi Pazuzu.
What this does illustrate is not only the vast range of musical styles present in the ‘most metal bands per capita’ country but the willingness of Aethyrick to explore their own path – in this case, a very much left-hand one. And it definitely is a unique path they follow, despite the aforementioned comparisons, one that is deeply unsettling, hard to grasp and yet still strangely enticing. The ‘forbidden fruits’ of occult exploration lend the proceedings on Gnosis an exotic, hugely liberating flavour that far transcends the standard rock-n-roll characteristics of being likely to annoy parents.
Don’t take our word for it, enjoy the full album stream of Gnosis and decide for yourself.
If that’s your objective, then Aethyrick is not for you and it will probably send you scampering away with your tail between your legs if you even try; tracks like the album opener “Will Embodied” may hide behind a façade of standard black metal fare, but the layered textures, cracked cymbal stabs and disturbing dissonances rapidly send shivers down the spine. And once the vocals begin – recalling Behexen quite effectively – any semblance of normality is rapidly discarded. Factor in unexpected shifts to acoustic pauses and I reiterate my initial description: Gnosis is a punishment. “Golden Suffering,” the closing track, is thus not only aptly named, but stylistically echoes the opening offering making for a rounded, full-circle listening experience that brings a pleasant closure, albeit with some scars.
The comforting balm of the introductory passage of “Stellar Flesh” is equally short-lived: the choral theme overlaid on the dredged-from-unknown-hells vocals that follows is nothing short of vicious – an unkind mockery balancing scorn and beauty above pits of broken glass. And this is a continued theme throughout – scintillating, even uplifting melodies and arrangements but delivered with such scathing malevolence that you are kept on edge at all times. Even relatively straightforward B-side atmospheric outings like “Blood Acre” or “Anointed Bones” have a confrontational quality to them that speaks of mysteries the uninitiated will never appreciate.
In closing, I remain convinced that Gnosis is a punishment, and Aethyrick does its listeners no favours in delivering said punishment with such skill and flair – but my masochistic streak must be shining through as I cannot stop myself from repeatedly listening to this record.
Gnosis Track Listing:
01. Will Embodied
02. Oneiric Portals
03. Stellar Flesh
04. Your Mysteries
05. Blood Acre
06. Anointed Bones
07. Golden Suffering
Run Time: 40:01
Release Date: January 24, 2019
Record Label: The Sinister Flame