Has it really been four years since the last Aosoth full-length (IV: Arrow In Heart)? Man, time flies. It seems like only the other day that that record landed and further cemented Aosoth’s position as being one of the more focussed, reliable and downright convincing acts emanating from the French scene. Originally perceived as something of an Antaeus side project upon formation (mainly due to that band’s distinctive frontman MkM providing vocals), built upon a bedrock of ever-more impressive releases, Aosoth are now a firmly-established top-tier act.

Judging by the potency of ‘V: The Inside Scriptures’, this reputation will only be cemented. This is without a doubt a truly impressive and deadly piece of work. Founder guitarist, songwriter and mainstay BsT has not been idle in these intervening four years, crafting six lengthy, winding paeans that stand tall on a plethora of vicious, coruscating guitar lines and pummelling drum patterns. The guitar sound in particular is notable – a corrosive, grinding churn (with more than a whiff of downtuning to these ears) that nevertheless carries distinction and distinctiveness. Just one listen to the way that the infectious chugging refrain on ‘Her Feet Upon the Earth, Blooming the Fruits of Blood’ emerges from the borderline chaos of the opening riff is a testament to this balance.

MkM’s throat as ever will be the overriding focus for many and once again, he does not disappoint – a by-now trademarked croaking, gurgling roar carrying real menace across these songs. But ultimately it’s the songs that are the focus here – the relentlessly jagged and discordant momentum of opener ‘A Heart to Judge’, the sinister cleans that announce the title track and the relentless, dizzying triumphalism of the final piece ‘Silver Dagger and the Breathless Smile’ – each instalment feels considered, honed, sculpted.

In many ways, there’s more than a whiff of last year’s Antaeus comeback ‘Condemnation’ record – the frenzied pace that is often reached, the suffocating fog of guitars, MkM’s gruesome vocals – although Aosoth’s compositions are more intricate, substituting discordance and dynamism for outright velocity. It’s almost a companion piece if you will – the more nuanced elder brother of that record’s single-minded ferocity – suggesting in some ways that the relationship between the two acts has come full circle.

Sometimes though it’s too easy to over-analyse these things and it’s better to just sit back let the engaging sonics wash over you. ‘V: The Inside Scriptures’ achieves that with aplomb, drawing the listener into a world of genuine malice and havoc. This is an excellent black metal record that showcases BsT’s impressive grasp of balancing complex composition, discordance and envenomed atmospheres and should be obtained without delay.

(9/10 Frank Allain)