Band Line Up:
Micke Broman – Vocals/Bass
Martin Andersson – Guitars
Jonas Ehlin – Bass
Giuseppe Orlando – Drums
Elisabetta Marchetti – Guest vocal on Imperator Noctis
01. Fire of Catharsis
02. Begotten in Black
03. Descending Shadows
04. Abattoir for Flesh and Faith
05. The Summoning Call
06. The Wolves Between the Stars
07. Until the Red Of Dawn
08. The Nourishing Hate
09. Imperator Noctis
Swedish black metal trio Astrophobos initially came to the world’s attention via their ferocious 2014 debut, Remnants Of Forgotten Horrors. This was a full length release positioned between the shorter 2010 EP, Arcane Secrets, and a second, 2016 stop-gap, Enthroned In Flesh. All three releases set the formidable, yet melodic template for the band’s latest album, which has been mixed and mastered at Kick Recording Studios by Marco Mastrobueno (Fleshgod Apocalypse, Hour Of Penance).
Astrophobos have acknowledged this work arrives in the year marking their tenth anniversary. As such, they have been reflecting on their roots, stating that while Malice Of Antiquity retains their trademark sound, it also showcases the band as they explore new territories.
They claim this to be their most varied and dynamic output to date, placing particular emphasis on memorable songwriting across nine songs of melodic Swedish black metal.
To begin, Fire of Catharsis sets a impressively vicious tone. Snarling from the speakers and bearing all the hallmarks of the band’s chosen genre, the first track hits the ground running with a powerful delivery of tremolo riffing and energetic blast beats. The drumming has been performed by Giuseppe Orlando; not a permanent member of the band, but drafted in from The Foreshadowing to provide a high velocity thrust across the album.
He does an admirable job and integrates well into the overall sound, pushing the music forward and into the second track, Begotten In Black.
From here the band build a rousing Scandinavian lilt into the music. Descending Shadows starts on a melodic bass refrain, courtesy of Jonas Ehlin, before the music settles into a rhythmic, Nordic push that evokes a Viking longboat, rowing dramatically towards a battle.
The undoubtedly Swedish flavour may initially leave you feeling Malice Of Antiquity is little more than standard, black metal fare, but dig a bit deeper and there are some significant rewards that grow more valuable with repeated listens.
Dynamic shifts and acoustic passages add drama to the arrangements. Guitar solos are harmonised and creatively constructed. Martin Andersson has a clear talent for melodic playing and tasteful restraint amongst his savage riffing.
The Summoning slows the pace to a driven pulse before The Wolves Between The Stars brings back the tempo for another blast of driven mayhem. Over the turmoil, Micke Broman‘s sneering vocals maintains a menacing, otherworldly climate that carries things forward, towards the climactic final third of the album.
A brief moment of peace is plucked out on nylon strings before the aggressive battery of Until The Red Of Dawn smashes in and establishes itself as a striding album highlight. It includes all of the elements that have, so far, made Malice Of Antiquity an album that deserves some attention.
Astrophobos‘ ability to weave Maiden-esque influences into their darkened metal continues with The Nourishing Hate. Here, Orlando proves he is a drummer with reassuringly good taste as he showcases his feel for a looser swing under the fierce music.
Throughout the album, Astrophobos have maintained a confident flair. While they aren’t bringing dramatically new ideas to the genre, what they are bringing is ten years of experience and using it to create some quality music. The result is a worthy collection of songs that should appeal to any discerning metal fan.
If any further persuasion was needed then the final track on Malice Of Antiquity delivers the slam dunk. Drafting in Elisabetta Marchetti from Inno and Riti Occulti to perform additional vocals, Imperator Noctis is a jaw dropping heavy metal performance that completely fulfils Astrophobos’ intention to create “memorable” music.
As the song develops, Marchetti embellishes the band’s blackened stampede with a dark choir of voices, bringing the album to a powerful, gothic conclusion that is the aural definition of an epic climax. It’s a final highlight that establishes Astrophobos as an exceptional band.
This gets my heavy recommendation