Esoctrilihum is a mysterious one-man act hailing from a non-specific location in the land of France. The sole proprietor of the band, Asthâghul, is as elusive as his interviews are cryptic; however, over the past few years, I have come to highly anticipate each and every release he puts out and am yet to be disappointed. In fact, I have yet to find myself not awe-inspired by everything this band releases. Asthâghul has a self-proclaimed practicing interest in the occult and this can be seen on plain display before the music is played for a single second. I am referring to the demonic and often disturbing mystical images that are seen on the artwork of each album. This record was an undertaking to review, although in no way an unpleasant one. This is primarily due to its 75-minute runtime. I often found myself not finishing it in its entirety and starting at the beginning again when I got back to it because I was never sure exactly where I stopped. Something about this album is entrancing, almost to the extent of obfuscating your senses, causing you to feel slightly bewildered and lost in the record at times. That being said, even when becoming familiar with the record and its structure, the album still retains its mysterious, bewitching qualities.
The first noticeable quality about this release is how it is much crisper in production quality than its forebearers. My initial realisation was in some ways a surprise and in others, a disappointment. This is because I had come to love the particularly murky, yet somehow enticing, production quality that enshrined Esoctrilihum’s work in a misty veneer on past releases. After having time to get to grips with the album I am certain the change in production in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the record and it is a refreshing and notable shift from his previous efforts. Although the production gives the individual parts more presence in the overall mix, I wouldn’t say the psychedelic properties the band exhibits are lessened and, to most, the sound is probably objectively better, though I did have a soft spot for the ‘buried within a tomb’ sound the older albums had.
If I am being honest, it took me a few listens for Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath to start clicking with me (not only because I still struggle to say the name). I think this might have been the case with every Esoctrilihum release I have ever reviewed. It wasn’t just a matter of not enjoying the album at first, but rather a matter of feeling overwhelmed by the music as a whole. This act has always had a dense and intimidating visage that slowly turns from uncertainty into absolute bliss. This album reminds me why Esoctrilihum is one of my favourite black metal recording artists releasing music today. The emotions I experience while going through this album range from ecstasy to terror, from serenity to despair. The artistic range of the album is phenomenal. Another notable aspect of the music is occasional violin and synthesizers that assist in giving the music it’s layered texture. Although the music is presented in a more aurally palatable form, the music still retains it’s chaotic, dirge-like qualities.
As would be expected lyrically, the music is hard to interpret. The song titles are cryptic. My initial impression is that they read as names, perhaps names of demons? Just a wild guess there.
The first track of the album “Ezkikur” is haunting, and even with the crisp production the music still feels veiled in a cloudy aura, a somewhat foreboding quality. The various string and synth sounds heard throughout this piece are melodic and filled with longing. I hear sounds resembling horns, flutes, and other more synthetic sounds. At the track’s densest point the guitars are one of the least present things in this mix, which is an interesting and refreshing choice. Towards the end of the track, the horns and synths seem to swell and moan in the background as the song slowly fades out—my least favourite way to end a track, but nonetheless a great piece.
As “Salhn” starts to play, the aggressive, almost evil sounding, violin stands out. The way the bow is raked across the strings with the slight shifting of intonation, in and out of the key, is unsettling. This mood is maintained for two minutes until shifting into a warmer and almost reverent section. The sound is in no small part imparted by the choir-like, heavenly sounding synths that fill up the musical space. The melodies shift from bright to dark as the barked vocals interject, uttering heresies. The amount of reverb and delays heard in the mix is worth noting too. The sound is constantly drenched in echoes that bounce around decaying slowly, leaving artifacts drifting about your speakers, befogging them with fading oddities.
“Tyurh” hits you hard with blast beats and church organs, not a common pairing. This song is the most in your face of the record so far, but the drums still feel muted and distant. The horn melodies that come in shortly after are cinematic and memorable. This album is chock full with ear worms that stick you and have you humming along with each and every one. This song also introduces some cleaner, chant-like vocals that reinforce the sacred connotations, not that I needed to with a song that includes organ. Just before two minutes the guitar takes front and centre, with more haunting melodies. Although rhythmically the album often maintains a steady, comforting quality, the mood and tone colours shift constantly from dark to light, and back again. The shift is not always obvious but seems to occur regularly.
I would love to dive into every track of this album as I usually do, but with a runtime this epic the review would be five pages long. So perhaps it is best to leave some surprises for you to discover. If it wasn’t clear already, this album comes highly recommended, and as always when it comes to Esoctrilihum, one of the best albums I have heard this year. Get your tomes out and start casting those protection spells because if you go into this one unwarded who knows what fate awaits you at the end.
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You can grab a digital copy of Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath over on the I, Voidhanger Bandcamp page as well as CDs. Vinyl and other merch can also be found over at the Metal Odyssey page. You can also listen to it over on Spotify.