Who is to truly say in which “wave” of black metal we currently reside? Most black metal these days is sold with descriptors of “second wave” or “early” or “trve kvlt” or perhaps “pagan.” What do those words even mean to the average metal fan? What person, with adequate resources to delve into the genre, has time to sort all of this out? And, for what it’s worth, who would want to? For when all internet credibility and scene-policing is stripped away only one thing remains: black metal as art. And not just the cover art (which Aethyrick tends to excel at), but the art of emotive expression in an abstract sense. The art of moving people and taking them on a spiritual journey. If art therapy can exist with a proven scientific basis in healing, then it follows that black metal, as art, can help heal.
For all the evilness, anger and hate that goes hand-in-hand with the posturing as a demon, berserker or arcane spirit, it’s the audible aspect that remains the most important when discussing the artistic merit of black metal. It’s a base accusation to look at black metal and claim that it fosters hate. In fact, when used therapeutically, black metal is more likely a manner and method to release hatred, anger and other frustrating emotions that keep us anchored in sadville (population: us). It is only through this music that the subject can give in to the hypnotic rhythms and vehement vocal delivery to truly release what they have been taught to keep bottled up. “Emotions aren’t for sharing” they tell us. They are to be expressed in extreme solitude and under the most dire of circumstances.
Mainstream religions overwhelmingly use silent meditation as a way to commune with “God.” They stress silent prayer, hushed confession and dark spaces in which we can finally unleash our deepest secrets and desires we’ve been told are sinful. But can one truly heal in that manner? Other religions—for example, some branches of Hassidic Judaism (The Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s branch for one)—advocate the very opposite. And the opposite is a surprisingly ancient view. Alternatively, they preach that members should get out of the dark structures. They should hug trees in an effort to connect with nature. They should scream their rage into the sky and unleash their emotions in tribalistic songs and dances with large groups of their peers, their sweat falling to the ground as a way to expel those menacing emotions so vital to human nature yet so reviled by society.
Aside from having a super badass logo, Aethyrick provides a whole heaping burrito-load of melody into their mystickal black metal through which you can work out whatever ills you have hidden within. Octaves of melodies pour over the body of each tune, acting like wings to pull the tracks from the abyss and into an ethereal realm where the tracks on Gnosis spend most of their leisure time. Drifting between realms as a melancholy spirit casting necessities upon the earth so that trees and fruits can grow tall for the gods to feed upon. Their songs also twist themes of love and romance into their occult mysticism. There is true love to be found among the intertwining branches of evolving marshes and the rising of sinister red stars. In summation, it’s not all filth and misery. Aethyrick, for all their screaming and braided riffing, display a sentiment for the beauty of the ever-advancing destruction of nature and the ever-evolving universe that surrounds us and will eventually swallow us whole.
For Gnosis, the same throaty delivery is employed for the vocals croaked out through a mucus-filled throat. The production has been enhanced since their debut, Praxis, to include additional reverb and layering that marries the vocals to the guitars in a seamless endeavor to excrete a monochromatic product. The drums have softened; being loosely-tuned and slid into the background serves to further the single-pallet delivery, which provides a more than ample canvas to marry Aethyrick’s nature-based aesthetic and their electric delivery. As will be discussed, Aethyrick have used Gnosis to more firmly root themselves in the atmospheric school of black metal.
In addition to the enhanced production, synthesizers and clean guitars are employed to help harmoniously transition between tracks. As such, the slower pace of opener “Will Embodied” is carried effortlessly—as if on a jet stream—into “Oneiric Portals.” Another highlight on “Oneiric Portals” is the bass drum, which pounds out staccato double-bass rolls in between moderately paced blasts. Production is again front and center as the dull thud of the bass drum sounds as if taken straight from a forest. Picture a group of tree elves leaving their cookie-making stations to make mystickal black metal upon instruments made from objects found by Smurfs. The sound is at once modern and also intrinsically tied to the pagan aesthetic of nature-based black metal.
None of these fun-filled descriptors are meant to detract from the seriousness and vile nature inherent in Aethyrick’s black metal; they are not a duo that takes artistic responsibility lightly. Rather, they are clearly influenced by a myriad of global sounds and have shown a brilliance throughout their brief career at melding those influences into their compositions. For example, “Your Mysteries” contains a nearly 90s’ emo feel that uses sorrowful, clean guitar lines to open the track with gloom and emotional heaviness. As the track progresses, the duo continue to bring back that downcast lead line with the drums fading further into the background, allowing their music to take on a fetching, altogether atmospheric style of black metal. The track approaches its apex and conclusion leisurely, with a clatter of rhythm and a soaring guitar line approaching from the rear and accompanying the main riff.
So, without any degrees or actual qualifications with which to back up these claims, it is recommended that a band like Aethyrick be used as medicine in early 2020. Allow their sounds to bring the forest floor into your bedroom. Allow the branches and vines to wrap softly around your limbs. Allow the stars and planets to rotate overhead, aligning your chi and releasing stress as if you paid full price for acupuncture. If there’s anything we as humans can achieve before death, it’s self-healing, and black metal is certainly a tool that, when utilized properly, can help assist with that process. Breathe in. Hold for four seconds. Release. Relax your toes. Relax your legs. Upwards we go relaxing body parts and mind in unison. And as the tracks reach their apex, allow your soul to scream forth that evil that overfloweth in your brain. You are healed.