Astarium celebrates his tenth anniversary this year. It's been a wild ride for this one-man project but a highly satisfying one too. He seems to be a workaholic as well, having released loads of albums, splits and ep's. The one I'm about to review today, 'Nekrocosmo: Nocturnal Kali Yuga' takes black metal to a whole new level. A level where The Kovenant (or back in the days just Covenant) also used to dwell. It's actually about time this area of black metal is presented a bit more because it's awesome.
Astarium uses black metal as a foundation to experiment with psychedelic rock and cosmic synths. The result is an album consisting of eight highly symphonic anthems, loaded with keyboards and an otherworldly atmosphere. Vocals, ranging from death growls to blackened chants, tell cosmic stories, including 'Nemesis', written by H.P. Lovecraft and 'Ex Nihilo', written by J. Armstrong. Furthermore, of course, there's a lot of dark ambient and neoclassical music interwoven in the brutal black metal.
On the other hand, this album is actually not that brutal. It has way more melody than most black metal bands have and the focus seems to be mainly on the storytelling. Opener 'Lyrian Selection' or 'Dance Of The Agony' for example are great psychedelic rock songs, dressed in a black metal gown. There's no overuse of blast beats, no suffocating wall of noise. I admit, once in a while the whole thing goes quite evil on our asses, like in the stunning 'Phaeton', but the overall feeling is one of cosmic mystery and extraterrestrial agony.
What strikes most is the notion that Astarium seems to be influenced as much by acts like Klaus Schulze or Popul Vuh as bands like Marduk and Darkthrone. This combination really is stunning and a very welcome deviation from the bleak and evil sounds which often penetrate my ears. Not that I don't appreciate some fierce blast beats driven extreme metal but an extra touch is usually highly regarded in this household. 'Strain Of Mastor' for instance, perfectly combines both elements and thus becomes something massive, intense and very immersive.
I often wonder what would happen if one-man bands like this find a number of musicians and take their stuff on the road. The originality of these solo-projects is amazing and I'm quite sure it will blow many established (but one-sided) bands right off stage. With music like this, Astarium should definitely crawl to the foreground of the present-day extreme music scene. Please, find a band an conquer Europe before our planet will be pulverised by those evil spirits from out there.