It would appear we have covered all 4 prior releases from this strange and mysterious French entity, the sole project of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Asthâghul. Personally, I have given each album a cursory listen and always meant to get back to them but 5th album Eternity Of Shaog gives me a chance to do a bit more than scratch the surface. We are immersed in Lovecraftian lore which let’s face it is nothing new but the works of Esoctrilihum suggest more than a short story and proffer a rare full-length novel bloated in every sense of the word. This particular tale is certainly designed to make you shudder and feel uncomfortable dealing as it does with “Shaog Og Magthoth, the most unfathomable among the Sovereigns of Nothingness.” Track titles themselves are at first look convoluted and a real mouthful, the songs divided into various passages and the album with a running time of over an hour. The music itself is just as dense too and full of tones to match the ominous narrative. You are certainly going to find yourself with an album that consumes your time here and one that you fill find more in each visit and turn of its pages.
Essentially, we have a canvas of symphonic black metal here built up and multi-layered and the really interesting thing I have found about it is the utilisation of different instruments, whether synthesized or played themselves over the album’s various paths. Put these together with the composers at times necrotic and otherworldly ghastly croaking and rasps and we are definitely taken to a dread universe far from home. At times he resembles the likes of an Orc or a goblin but that is a different tale entirely if not one to use more easily as a simile. The recording itself is rich and dense, packed even from genesis on opening short number Orthal’ which bursts into life with hefty blasts, gibbering growls and a beguiling melody underneath the savagery. I am at times reminded certainly vocally of fellow fantasy narrators Summoning but what has been unearthed here from the depths below in worship of the Great Old Ones is far more tumultuous. Still, as ‘Exh-Enî Söph (1st Passage – Exiled From Sanity)’ (and I am not naming each and every track) proves it’s not all breakneck speed, indeed every story needs some plot building and we find plenty of that between surges of bracing violence. Here too comes the first appearance of more orchestral instrumentation and what sounds like brass mournfully adding melody to the story. Later on, we get some devilish violin and in the most spellbinding section of the album what sounds to me (after much scratching of head) hammered dulcimer. With all this the music definitely takes on different genre within itself, the brass giving a bit of a jazz laden approach and other parts with leanings towards the neo-classical.
This is one of those albums that could be too bonkers to gel together properly and sure attention is definitely needed on behalf of the listeners. Luckily it is skilfully put together and flows well over its composite chapters leaving you with a bit of a page turner with plenty of drama to keep you occupied. At its most violent it feels like we are in the midst of a full pitched battle. The titled ‘Colour of Death’ is a bloodthirsty and barbarous one for sure and the ghastly savagery is designed to leave you breathless. After being ravaged however some passion is breathed into things via keyboards and even within the frames of one particular passage you never know quite where this is going to take you next; here it is the first real up-front violin concerto. Gazing at the stars is not unknown and there are some dreamy and sublime melodic passages with low growls equally hypnotising to take you away from the cut and thrust although the hurly-burly is never far away. Indeed, there are moments of peace where the classical components really come to the fore and you are likely to find yourself entranced as much as you are thrown into the midst of a rousing melee as everything ties together.
With 5 equally varied and consuming albums delivered within the space of just 4 years the vision of Asthâghul proves that one man allowed to work at own pace can create a fantastical universe that goes beyond mere music itself. Personally, I have obviously missed out and need to go back in time and properly discover the past works although I have a feeling this album has the scope to keep anyone entertained for a long period of time in itself. Simply put though lovers of Lovecraft, fantasy music and artists such as Summoning and The Ruins Of Beverast will find this a suitably compelling and epic work. Extra praise has to be heaped upon the fantastic cover painting: “The Dracula of Mars” by Alan E. Brown (Medusawolf), which totally completes the overall vision of this musical extravaganza.
(8/10 Pete Woods)