Esoctrilihum is a one-man black metal act from France created by artist Asthâghul. He returns with his fifth full-length album Eternity of Shaog and it is an enthralling listen, dripping in occultish blasphemy; a musical hex. This is the second time I am reviewing this artist, the first time being in podcast form with Ryan Knapp (check it out here). I was a huge fan of the 2019 release, The Telluric Ashes of the Ö Vrth Immemorial Gods, and this one might top it.
The first thing you will notice is that the music has an obscure and lo-fi production quality which I find enhances the ambience of the record. If I was to look at the musical production from a purely technical aspect I would very rarely recommend such a messy and muddy style of mixing, however, in this case, it is one of my favourite aspects of the music. It provides the album with a ghoulish quality. We also hear a fair amount of acoustic sounds (acoustic guitar, violin, and possibly some other traditional instruments), and the combination of distorted instruments, heavy drums, screaming, and these natural sounds with this type of production creates an incredibly supernatural sound. The result is almost enchanting but with wicked intent.
The album is not entirely lo-fi, however. We have tracks such as “Shtg (4th Passage – Frozen Soul)” which starts with a very rich and warm piano part, dripping with reverb and joined with orchestral elements. The music has an austere and filmic quality. As the heavier elements are introduced later in the track the dense production quality returns and we are treated to some subtle dissonance before the rest of the instruments dissipate leaving only solo piano that once again begins to build.
Eternity of Shaog is full of cathartic moments and almost wholly melodic. It has some influences of death metal heard now and then but mostly keeps within the sphere of black metal. Technically and musically the album has a wide variety of sounds. The drumming varies from simple rock grooves to machine-gun kicks followed by pounding blast beats. The guitars feature tremolo picking, lyrical leads, and crunching riffs. The vocals go from death growls to classic black metal shrieks, the occasional clean as well as barely audible vocals buried in overdrive and other effects. Combined with synth sounds, acoustic instruments, and studio layering, the textures produced set this album apart as something truly diverse, particularly in the genre.
Let’s talk tracks: I particularly enjoyed the second one “Exh-Enî Söph (1st Passage: Exiled from Sanity)” mainly because it embodies all the elements I have mentioned above. Is it terrifying yet still alluring, a poisonous kiss. A plucked acoustic sound is introduced throughout the track, which works as a poignant motif and is the last thing we hear at the end of the track as the rest of the instruments fade into the abyss.
Track four, “Aylowenn Aela (3rd Passage: The Undying Citadel)” makes great use of all the most frightening sounds a violin can produce. It reminds me of a combination of modernist music and gypsy cults. Track five, “Shtg (4th Passage – Frozen Soul)”, needs another mention due to the way it brings the intensity of the album way down. It is an odd track as it is the only one of its type on the album, almost serving as an interlude. There are no other instrumental pieces on the album which helps this one to stand out even more.
Track six, “Amenthlys (5th Passage: Through the Yth-Whtu Seal)”, starts off with a beautiful, sweeping reverse guitar which is closely followed by sustained chords and washy synths. Some more acoustic layers are heard over a death metal riff played only on bass before the rest of the instruments join in unison. More reversed sounds are heard two minutes in, a spoken voice this time. I think I might need to burn some sage in this room now.
The second to last track, “Eternity of Shaog (8th Passage: Grave of Agony)”, has a riff that could almost pass for power metal if it weren’t for the rest of what was going on. A hint of the famous act Dissection can be heard in this one. An almost jocular, harmonic minor riff shows its face around two minutes combined with simple punk-like drumming. The track is now reminding me of Bal-Saggoth, a real mixed bag of tasty treats. If there is anything that disappoints me about this album it has to be blatantly emblazoned on this track and that is the word ‘Shaog’. I don’t like secrets, especially such intriguing ones. I need to know if these unsearchable words come from some obscure lore or are made up. I don’t mind either way but I guess I should give up because I’m probably never going to find out. The piece returns to its slow and sincere, yet veiled quality toward the middle of the piece before returning to the principal riffs followed by an unholy wall of blasts, double kicks, and what sounds like a recording of pure hell. The tempo diminishes once again and the song slowly fades. This might be my pick of the album.
The last track begins with an aural curtain of dissonance and ends as a wash of melodic guitar. I am left with only one question. Does burning sage stack?
I tried to do some research on the lyrics but I cannot find anything published online. I tried looking up some of the names/terms used in the song titles and all they pull up is the song I’m listening to. At least the obscurity of the music is not restricted to the production sound. There is something cool about unreleased and unheard lyrics. I will live with it.
It feels like I have already written about a tonne of black metal this year and generally I only pick the stuff I like so that makes things tricky but this might be a contender for one of my tops of the year. Without a doubt go check this out but don’t come blaming me when the whispers wake you up at night.
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You can grab a digital copy of Eternity of Shaog on the I, Voidhanger Records Bandcamp page. Vinyl and CDs are available over at the Metal Oddysey website.
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