Perhaps it is my own advancing age, but it pleases me more than I can say when two stalwarts many would consider past their prime follow up their very well-received first release (2020’s Under His Sway EP) with a debut of this quality. Mythology, divination, magick and, of course, Lucifer: all the themes necessary to craft a (ahem) spellbinding narrative, binding individual slabs of unapologetic metal together into a celebration of darkness and occluded knowledge. This content-driven, intellectual approach meshes neatly with the extensive history Yoth Iria bring to the table (a pedigree of Hellenic black metal legends lines this duo’s curriculum vitae – from Rotting Christ to Varathron to Necromantia and beyond) and proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that experience trumps enthusiasm when it comes to black metal. And, even more impressively, they manage this without resorting to plagiarizing past achievements: subtle influences may be felt, but As the Flame Withers is entirely its own unique entity.
From the uplifting, lead-laden promise of “The Great Hunter,” past the slow-burning martial malevolence of “The Mantis” and right through to the closing low-end led swampy stomp (Jim Mutilator at his finest) that is “The Luciferian,” Yoth Iria delivers in spades: tight, pistoning rhythms drive soaring and organic riffery that dip between the seething rasps of The Magus’ grandiose vocals.
“The Red Crown Turns Black” is a convincing summary of all of the above.
What really sells As the Flame Withers is its range, though: on top of a thrash-inspired foundation, there are generous sprinklings of spooky ambiance (“Yoth Iria”), more typical Hellenic black metal natural tuned dissonance (“Unborn, Undead, Eternal”) and even a dash of gothic rock angst (“The Hermetic Code”) offsetting the overall blackness. This ensures accessibility across a wide audience but also satisfies die-hard black metal fans as Yoth Iria never strays from its core premise of guitar, drums, growls and evil. Personally, I find the dynamic engagement this exploration of styles encourages is a rarity within black metal – let alone when it is being crafted by long-time proponents of the genre who an outsider would almost immediately assume to be beardy in their fanatical devotion to the kvlt.
It may be early days, but this late-January release is already a contender for my 2021 album of the year list because I’m finding it difficult to imagine anything better right now; not even the promise of an effective COVID-19 vaccine seems as hopeful a start to 2021 as this record. Yoth Iria has not only lived up to the hype of their preceding 2020 EP and split with fellow Grecians Kawir, but have sublimated these expectations and made As The Flame Withers a nostalgic celebration of Hellenic black metal history as well as an intriguing glimpse into a promising future.
The black ‘n roll groove of “The Hermetic Code” belies its ritualistic content.
As The Flame Withers Track Listing:
1. The Great Hunter
2. Yoth Iria
3. Hermetical Code
4. The Mantis
5. The Red Crown Turns Black
6. Unborn, Undead, Eternal
8. The Luciferian
Run Time: 47:01
Release Date: January 25, 2021
Record Label: Pagan Records