Aetherius Obscuritas

Víziók (Visions)

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2007's Víziók, or "Visions," is the fourth album in as many years released by prolific Hungarian black metal artist Arkhorrl, using the one-man band banner of Aetherius Obscuritas, and everything about it -- indecipherable logo, backwoods artwork, non-English lyrics -- confirms his unwavering devotion to the genre's most extreme underground philosophies. Having said that, the opening title track's immediate ascent into shrieking buzzsaws and blastbeat stampedes makes for a very misleading first impression: that unsophisticated, unrestrained brutality is all that Aetherius Obscuritas has offer. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, as the self-sufficient vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (only the drums here are left for guest performer Zson) quickly reveals his broad range as a composer by meticulously layering dense, sub-symphonic harmonies into the underlying barrage, and threading distinctively melancholy melodies into Norwegian-rooted standouts like "Mysterious Path of Desires," "Journey to Immortality," and "Idegenul." Arkhorrl even steps off the blastbeat accelerator, on occasion (though rarely for the duration of any one song), to prolong the ecstatic damnation of such tracks as "Kilenc Tele a Kodnek" and "Black Moorland"; then skews metal completely for the stark, chiming interlude, "Who Never Really Left." Even his unrelenting onslaughts rarely disappoint (see "The Lockless Door," with its evident tribute to Emperor), and the overarching Norwegian influences also barely detract from Aetherius Obscuritas' Hungarian origins -- what with the cover of Ragnarok's "My Refuge in Darkness" redone as "Menedekem a Sotetsegeben." And if it isn't already clear from all of the descriptions above, Víziók is a very accomplished, well-rounded black metal effort, which may surprise some detractors of the genre's corpse-painted, forest-dwelling extremists.

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