By Nathanas Trismegistus
Esoctrilihum – Eternity of Shaog; released May 22, 2020 by I, Voidhanger Records. Another year, another release from the mysterious French occultist, Asthâghul. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably knew how eagerly I was anticipating this album. Those of you who read my “Black Metal 2019: Year in Review” article may have read my raving review for The Telluric Ashes… and were aware of my positive disposition towards this band; my view of their musical output as a seemingly endless wellspring of excellence. My initial impression on this album is not so much that of disappointment, but more that this album represents a stark, unmistakable misstep on the path to glory. I still maintain that Esoctrilihum is one of my best Bandcamp discoveries. But this is far from the band’s best efforts.
Even though I said The Telluric Ashes… was the band’s best album to date, I didn’t take into account that it was a very different album from Inhüma—stylistically, compositionally, etc. Inhüma is probably a better album, objectively. It is definitely more aggressive, dissonant, and better fits what can broadly be defined as black metal. The Telluric Ashes… is definitely more unique in its approach, but the two are hardly comparable. Eternity of Shaog, however, continues the style of composition established by the last album. Except, in this album, the most noticeable changes are to the instrumentation. In addition to the Middle Eastern folk instruments featured, sparingly, in the last album, this album now includes symphonic elements as well as some terrible violin and cliché piano pieces. These new components add, ultimately, nothing to the overall experience and – no joke – fall to the wayside about halfway through the album. Moreover, if the composition of The Telluric Ashes… seemed, at all, vague or meandering; well, that problem is only magnified in Eternity of Shaog.
Whereas I thought The Telluric Ashes… lost steam after track 7, Eternity of Shaog seemingly loses steam after track 3. It’s really kind of sad, because the album started off rather strongly. Cranking out albums on an annual basis probably isn’t doing this project any favors. I rarely ever skip a track when I’m reviewing an album, but I actually did have to skip track 4 it was so obnoxious. Track five is just terrible filler. Track 7 – I swear – verbatim reuses a riff from The Telluric Ashes… (Are they plagiarizing themselves?) Track 8 is just awful. Track 9 has a bizarre thrash, pagan/Viking metal hybrid feel to it which just felt plain wrong and out of place. To be fair, track 10 does sort of redeem Eternity of Shaog, if only slightly.
If The Telluric Ashes… was an enlightening, mélange-fueled journey along the spectacular, endless deserts of Arrakis, then Eternity of Shaog must be a nightmare-filled, fatal overdose. It is over an hour long. The songs are very long (most of them exceed six minutes). It is very dense. I couldn’t recommend Eternity of Shaog to just anyone. Even though the sound – the production quality – is rather good (even though I think it sounds cheap and fake), it’s by no means accessible. The obliqueness of the songwriting will probably just confuse and agitate (or, heaven forbid, bore) the average metal listener. I would, obviously, recommend it to fans of Esoctrilihum. I would recommend it to fans of weird, exotic-sounding, psychedelic music in general. I would, more so, recommend their last album, though. The vinyl release of this album is limited to 300 copies, if I’m not mistaken. The CD, which comes in an A5 digipak, is limited only to 200 copies, making it the most limited Esoctrilihum release. So, snatch them up while you can (but save one for me, please). Is it essential, though? The Telluric Ashes… is essential. Inhüma is essential. But this one? Not so much.
Listen/buy here: https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/eternity-of-shaog