Doom Metal, arguably the oldest of all the Metal genres. If you look back even before Black Sabbath there is a wide range of Proto-Metal bands in the vein of Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge touching upon the beginnings of Metal, all of which is done with a decidedly Doom edge. This sound would later be worshipped and thus form into its own genre. Equally much like many other Metal subgenres it has found itself mixed with other genres, possibly most notably Death Metal. Bands like Autopsy, early Katatonia and Asphyx have all helped shape the more Extreme Metal side of Doom Metal in a blend that works with a sort of crushing melancholy.
Yet as they say misery loves company, so prepare for depressive tones from Finland’s own Asphodelus. The band formed back in 2012 under the name of Cemetery Fog and even released an EP under this name among other demo releases. Then came 2016, a new chapter with a new name, Asphodelus. The band have climbed their way through yet more demos and a further EP in 2016 entitled Dying Beauty & The Silent Sky. Now however is the hour of judgement, a debut release from Terror From Hell Records under the name Stygian Dreams, but can this mournful tome act as a boost for Asphodelus or is it merely a passing wave of sadness?
Sometimes when people go on about DSBM being depressing I think have you heard Death Doom? For example I find Katatonia’s Dance Of December Souls so brutally depressing that it becomes hard to listen too, now that is a true art. Asphodelus seem hell bent on recreating this theme, drab lacklustre effortless riffs drown through a landscape of traditional Death Metal vocals, apathetic drumming and melodious, albeit it dismal keyboard passages. Is this a detriment though? By no means, in fact it is a bonus, to me this is exactly what Death Doom is all about, of course we can look to Autopsy’s gore-drenched ethos and be entertained but this is what real Doom feels like, oppressive and downtrodden.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this album is one unending slab of Drone infused Metal however, in fact it is far from it. The riffs themselves although desolate have a good structure, Scent Of Venus in particular is a Melodic Death Metal infused journey of anxious terror that is equal parts worn down and epic. The highlight for me however rests firmly within the keyboards, atmospheric, beautiful, emotive and enveloping they bring a spark of uniqueness to Asphodelus namely in the tracks The Hourglass Infernal and Where Freezing Spirits Fall. Stygian Dreams is a strong album with a lot going for it and a lot of replay factor, not something to get tired of easily.
To summarize I would say that Stygian Dreams is as correct as a Death Doom album should be. Despite the fact that I am a big fan of the more blood-soaked side of Death Metal, albums like this never fail to amaze me in their ideology of adopting Old School Death Metal themes and making them into something modern yet pure. Picture this album as a sort of Doom laden Nocturnus if you will, outside of the box but still easily respectable and influential. I wouldn’t perhaps go too crazy for this album but it certainly gives me a degree of pleasure, albeit melancholic, one that I can come back to many a time without getting bored.
(7/10 George Caley)