AOC – …Onwards The Path To Antagony

How the hell can music written half a decade before it was recorded stand up so easily? It seems that during most circumstances one would find it necessary to record within a reasonable timeframe of writing to preserve the genuine quality of the music. Apparently not for AOC; Cid let ‘…Onwards The Path To Antagony’ cook in the celestial oven for a number of years before committing it to CDr, and it seems all the better for it. Through even a cursory listening, one can hear that all the passion and wild-eyed ferver of this music has been preserved flawlessly, despite the disconnect between writing and recording. Indeed, it may have helped it in this case; the music on this release is so powerful (particularly for such a narrowly-known artist!) that it seems that some new beauty was bestowed upon it over time.

Coming approximately a half year after the release of his split with Lunar Reign, AOC has five tracks of his personal variety of ‘archaic metal’ for your enjoyment, and god damn if they’re not rock-solid slabs of stars and mysticism. For those of those that appreciated the progressive material on the split, there’s even more present here, from acoustic folk experimentation (‘Genesis’) to full on ambient drone compositions (‘Stella Viae’); there’s truly something for everyone. Even for the more primitively inclined among us, there’s the ripping ‘Alarum Within’, which Cid has jokingly referred to as ‘his black metal song’.

Unlike the sample intro of the previous split, ‘…Onwards The Path To Antagony’ starts off with a vivid, Mediterranean-influenced acoustic portion featuring entrancing guitar and bass lines weaving in and out of each other before moving into a Summoning-style militaristic march to announce the arrival of the album. Here we see one of the major new features of the album: the use of slightly off-time instrumentation to increase the density and natural feel of the music. While this sort of experimentation would likely be a disaster for other artists, it works pleasingly here, with the instruments nestling into each other in a more organic fashion than usual, fitting the naturalistic atmospheres of this release.

Next is the mighty ‘Endymion’, which seems to be a natural successor of sorts to the previous ‘Naglfar’, though in this case trading in the nautical atmosphere of that song for an airier, more drifting and mountainous feel. The centerpieces of this song are surely the dual lead guitar lines, culminating in one of the most majestic solos I’ve heard in any metal near the end of the song. After this instrumental track is a re-recorded version of ‘Mightiest Under The Moon’, one of the oldest AOC tracks, and the first of two with vocals on this release. The new sound works wonders to drive up the intensity of the song even further than before. The sound has been evened out and cleared up significantly, and Cid’s recorded vocals are even more desperate and bestial than before. His howls on this song are some of the most severe and heart-wrenching since the release of ‘Death – Pierce Me’.

Rounding off the metal tracks on this release is ‘Alarum Within’, a pure, blistering black metal track that would not seem ill at ease among mid-90s Norweigan artists. All things said, it is probably the least essential track on the release to display AOC’s skill. Nevertheless, it’s undeniably enjoyable to listen to. And to conclude the album is the sparse ambient drone of ‘Stella Viae’, which manages to capture the overwhelming vistas of the night sky and the worlds beyond it with truly breathtaking clarity. If we needed any proof that AOC was more than a mere metal artist, it is most certainly here, in the slowly shifting keys that take us to space beyond ours. A fitting end to a marvellous work.

I have no trouble saying that AOC is one of the most promising artistic endeavors in metal, natch, music today. If in merely two years of existence in this incarnation he has created such dazzling works, the future is bright indeed. For all of us.

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~ by noktorn on January 18, 2007.

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