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Aphonic Threnody : Immortal In Death (split with Ennui)

If you have the slightest interest in the slower end of extreme Doom, you should, quite simply, buy this split between Ennui and Aphonic Threnody.

Limited to 150 copies released through moderately-obscure, independendent Moscow label GSP, this split unites two comparatively recently-formed Funeral Doom acts who have, nonetheless, already acquired plenty of critical plaudits. The decision to work together, as confirmed by Riccardo - Aphonic Threnody's guitarist - was entirely down to the bands, after they 'met' online commenting on each others' material - which helpfully answers one of the more usual vexing questions over the purpose of such shared endeavours. Fortunately - as a general observation - such elective co-operation tends to produce the most coherent and interesting of splits, compared to those issued to publicise labelmates, or similar.

In this case, the feeling of completeness starts with the neatly-presented packaging: a gatefold digipack with sepia, Victorian-style photographic cover (of funereal scenes, naturally), and the foldouts presenting each set of lyrics either side of the CD. It looks stylish and effective, and the hand-numbering gives it extra collectability. It's also professional-quality production: warm and clear and well-suited to both bands' comparatively fast and busy approach to their chosen genre. In fact, it wouldn't seem particularly blasphemous to label the resulting sound as moving towards the borderline where atmospheric Funeral meets with raw Gothic Death/Doom, such is the combination of slow development and fine detail.

First up is Aphonic Threnody's 'Ruins'. At a shade over 20 minutes, it's more ambitious than any of the pieces on recent debut 'First Funeral', and does a good deal to further cement their status as a Doom 'supergroup'. All four musicians are veterans, with outstanding credentials to their names, and it shows in the way they almost effortlessly fill the allocated time with a darkly hypnotic and enticing vision. True to Funeral roots in the way that the mid-tempo but stately drumbeats anchor a guitar line that weaves around, and constantly returns to, its main theme; there is nonetheless little sense of minimalism in the accompanying layers of lush keyboard, bass flourishes, and ornamentation from the guitar and drums. Over it all, hoarse, rasping vocals and cold whispers convey the lyrical images of the darker side of religion with an appropriate contempt and horror. The overall sound is so full and balanced that it took a while to realise that it actually lacked the cello of 'First Funeral'. A little more polished and smooth, a little less raw, than that outing, it's a highly worthy progression.

Judging by the second track, 'Hopeless...', it is my loss not to have encountered Ennui before now. Opening with a lengthy sample (from movie 'The Sunset Limited'), the Georgian duo proceed to lay down a colder and less-embellished slab of guitar-driven Doom. I say 'colder' as a general impression, since the underlying percussion, rhythm and growling vocal work is held to a low and somewhat uniform level, but as counterpoint to that, the lead guitar line, full of diversions and flourishes, is largely clean, high and almost-joyously soaring. That may sound like an odd combination, but it's highly effective in both progressing the track and drawing the listener in to a place where the cavernous vocals and subterranean background can unleash their full, bleakly massive force. Whilst not as full of layers as the preceding track, it's just as cleverly done, and shares the ability to hide its 20+ minute length in a sense of total absorption.

If you have the slightest interest in Funeral Doom, or the slower end of Death/Doom, you should, quite simply, buy 'Immortal In Death' while you can. Either track is worth the price (and, to my mind, this is easily the best thing Aphonic Threnody have done yet): together, the feeling of completeness and synthesis between the two acts makes it pretty much essential. And keep an ear out for both bands in future: they have something rather special about them.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Aphonic Threnody - Ruins
2. Ennui - Hopeless...

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Aphonic Threnody bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-04-08 by Mike Liassides
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