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Aphonic Threnody : When Death Comes


Aphonic Threnody's debut full-length may well be looked back on as one of the quintessential records of its day.



A band name to be riddled with for sure, Aphonic Threnody. Intriguing, curious, idiosyncratic, unorthodox yet persistently strong, solitary and enduring like the grey stonework in the vast, rain-soaked graveyards the music conjures up. First time I saw their monicker I was destined to investigate. Nothing unique about that perhaps, it's happened many times before I'm sure. To all of us. Like buying a slab of vinyl from a 'record shop' (...back in them days!) purely on the suggestive power of the cover art or band name. Sometimes it worked (Agony's 'The First Defiance' springs to mind), and sometimes it didn't (far too many to list!). But on the odd occasion when that moment of intuition pays off, you inevitably strike gold. Aphonic Threnody's debut, 'First Funeral', released in 2013 (a demo, an EP, or an album, depending where you look!) was indeed one such golden moment.

And so, after two excellent split releases from earlier in the year, the news that an album proper was immenently due, despite the various band members' other commitments, was appealing to say the very least.

They're an interesting outfit for one thing. Part band, part project, part international collective. While most of the music is spearheaded, written and created by guitarist/bassist Riccardo, and structured and arranged with vocalist/lyricist Rob in the UK, the rest materializes from elsewhere. With the drums and mixing and mastering being done in Italy, and the keyboards and cello parts coming in from even further afield (Chile and Hungary) there is clearly more than just a passing understanding between the various members as to where it's all heading. In fact, this is a vast understatement. Bands living in the same house could struggle to produce such a cohesive result. Impressive also is the speed at which they work. Most of the songs here were written shortly after the first release, along with the tracks for the splits, and it may well be the communal insight between the members that makes this possible.

So, to the album. From the lush organ shrouding the guitars on the opening track to the subdued yet distinctive dual-guitar melodies of the last song, and all it's myriad beauty in between, 'When Death Comes' bathes the listener in the deepest waters of empathy, and, indeed it feels, a sympathy for the human condition. The initial immediacy and familiarities are quite overwhelming, and a short time into the proceedings I almost felt like pinching myself back to reality, such is the dreamy, trance-like effect of the music, before a yearning to immerse myself once again in its fervent, soulful realms took hold.

'When Death Comes' is an unashamed Funeral Doom record with a 'melodic' umbrella and, dare I say it, 'epic' tendencies either struggling to push through, or being gently kept at bay. Great swathes of mid tempo grief carry us pensively along for just over an hour, occasionally slowing and dimishing in volume, allowing time for respite and reflection. Vocals shift effortlessly between deep, stunning growls - for the bulk of the album - to occasional clean, harmonious, ethereal passages which plead for closer attention. The rhythms are stoical and metered out like a pallbearer's leather soles on the tarmac, while the drum fills help push the epic nature of the music to the fore. The rhythm guitars are rich and full and the lead lines and vignettes as good as anything conjured up this side of 1993. As to the peripheral instrumentation, the keyboards and cello are there to clothe the sound with a comforting effect; a warmth against the coldness of the subject matter in the lyrics, which chronicle some of the more harrowing predicaments of conscious existence. The music simply helps to soothe the pain, and let you know you're not alone. To be captured by 'When Death Comes' and put to sea on its undulating waves is undoubtedly a pleasure, although this is no easy ride, being as it is a subtle document of the suffering we can come face to face with, here on earth.

This is music for fans of Funeral (and Death/) Doom, pure and simple. An album by the genre, for the genre. That's not to say it doesn't have the potential for wider appeal, which it absolutely does, it just feels as though within the Doomy realm this album may well be looked back on as one of the quintessential records of its day. I'm not one for 'sound-a-likes' much, unless the music is so generic it leaves one no option, but I think if you've found your way to this website then Aphonic Threnody are a band whose acqaintance you could do well in making. Along the lines of saying if you like Hard Rock then you should give AC/DC a try. Aphonic's alumni have a pedigree within their ranks (Gallow God, URNA, Pantheist among others) which should give a rough idea as to who this may appeal to, and the guest musician slots are equally telling and impressive (Esoteric, Ennui). That said, I think they have the aesthetic and the capability of stretching further out into a broader realm, and the stunning video 'Meditation On Earth', featuring the track 'Death Obsession', will do them no harm in this endeavour.

Pictoral representation to complement the music is clearly taken seriously by the band, and the last, but by no means least, component part of the collective soul that is Aphonic Threnody is Valeria Spiga, the artist and friend of the band whose subtle, sepia images adorn the cover and inner sleeves. Beautiful studies of decomposition, of bones and of past life. A wonderful contrast to the pain dealt within the lyrics and the heaviness of the music.

The video title mentioned earlier is greatly apt, for meditating on the earth and finding an expression for their insight into some of its twisted domains is what Aphonic Threnody are doing to glorious effect, and according to the band it won't be ending here. With two more splits, a video, another album which is "already quite far in the works", as well as live aspirations for next year it seems this 'project' may well begin to take on a life of it's own. Here's hoping. It's not quite full marks, but it's damn close, and in any case with all that in the pipeline it'll be good to leave something in reserve, mainly because it is my humble opinion that the best is yet to come.


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Reviewer's rating: 9/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. The Ghost's Song
2. Death Obsession
3. Dementia
4. The Children's Sleep
5. Our Way To The Ground

Duration : Approx. 63 minutes

Visit the Aphonic Threnody bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-12-07 by Matt Halsey
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