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Aphonic Threnody : Of Graves, Of Worms, And Epitaphs (split with Frowning)

The split between Aphonic Threnody crystallises the essence of Extreme Doom in an exemplary way.

Every once in a while, a release emerges which captures the essence of a particular style perfectly, epitomising its strongest sides. Such releases are likely to become classics or at least be remembered for a longer time than most others. When newcomers are involved, such an achievement is all the more impressive, and this is the case with Of Graves, of Worms, and Epitaphs: released on the very young Russian label GS Productions, this split is the first ever release for Frowning from Germany, and judging from this material, there may be hope for the German Doom scene yet. But Aphonic Threnody, too, are a relatively new band, albeit consisting of experienced musicians. Here, they present us with their most convincing material to date, surpassing even the split with Ennui released only a few weeks earlier.

The image of a graveyard on the front cover already suggests that neither of the two bands is trying to break new ground here: they have a fairly traditionalist approach to funerary Death Doom, their style being melodic yet uncompromising. Roughly, you could place this split in the neighbourhood of bands such as Loss and Worship, but with a stronger nineties touch in the case of A.T.. Just like all the other GSP releases, the split comes in a nicely designed digipack. The production delivers enough crisp heaviness and clear differentiation and thus fits the music almost perfectly, the only downside being that the A.T. tracks suffer a bit from an over-accentuation of low frequencies, most notably the bass drum. In the case of Frowning, on the other hand, the balancing of frequencies takes on a colder, almost Black-Metal-tinged flavour.

Aphonic Threnody’s side of the split is the more tragic one. “The Last Stand Against the Gloom” (perhaps the ultimate title for a Doom song?) in particular feels like the final eulogy for mankind, carrying the last hope for the entire human race to its unforgiving grave. Listening to such an intense song immediately makes me remember what I love about this genre, and very few bands have such an effect these days. But “Scorched Earth”, too, has been so skilfully arranged that it manages to captivate and touch the listener throughout. The ebow contribution by Jarno Salomaa (Shape of Despair) adds another interesting layer. Then, there is a flame sample towards the end of the song accompanying an acoustic break, and while such samples often seem unnecessary, it is very well placed here, complementing the atmosphere perfectly. Speaking of breaks: in both songs, the acoustic guitars are a tad out of tune, and I suspect this was a deliberate choice to further emphasise the overall feel of something beautiful gone terribly wrong. Apart from these details, the cello and occasional keyboard contributions need mentioning since they are almost painfully effective in bringing out the full potential of the songs. In “The Last Stand…”, a strong classical influence can be heard in the cello, adding a great deal of identity and depth. The vocals, too, as monotonous as they are, find just the right amount of variation to emphasise the emotional flow of the music.

In terms of both style and atmosphere, the two acts combine so well that I didn’t even notice the change when I gave a first fleeting listen to the digital promo. But upon closer inspection, both of them have their own sound, which is difficult enough given their fairly orthodox approach. The Frowning material leans slightly more towards Funeral Doom, and the guitars rely on a combination of downtuned power chords and highly effective lead melodies rather than dual harmonies. Especially on “Funeral March”, what strikes me most is the incredibly sombre and claustrophobic atmosphere. The second song “In Solitude” cannot quite keep up with that, but is still very good in itself. Compared to A.T., there is a marked difference in the vocals in that Val Atra Niteris, the only person behind Frowning, alternates his ultra-deep growls with occasional high-pitched screams which give a tortured character to the whole. On the whole his vocals have a more painful edge to them. He, too, manages to use some synth flourishes to great effect. The only slight weakness are the lyrics: they are more on the cheesy side and cannot compete with A.T.’s offerings which, stereotypical as they may be, capture the atmosphere of finality very well. On the whole, though, these tracks are remarkably mature for a debut, so we can only hope that we will hear more from this project from now on.

For anyone who is even remotely interested in Death Doom and Funeral Doom of the more depressive kind, this split is absolutely mandatory – if only to remind you of what Doom is all about. An additional plus is the strong sense of coherence which many split releases lack. Keep in mind, though, that it is strictly limited to 100 hand-numbered copies for the time being. One of them is standing on my shelf, and I’m not giving it away…

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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Aphonic Threnody – Scorched Earth
2. Aphonic Threnody – The Last Stand Against the Gloom
3. Frowning – Funeral March
4. Frowning – In Solitude

Visit the Frowning bandpage.

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Aphonic Threnody bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-05-30 by Dominik Sonders
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