PICK OF THE WEEK: Striving for perfection works wonders for Avichi’s ‘Catharsis Absolute’

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski

Being a perfectionist can have its ups and down. On one hand, you’re going to do your work until you absolutely, positively believe it is finished, awaiting masses be damned. On the other, you can overcook, overthink, and overdo your project until you strip it of its character, power, and interest. Axl Rose just gave me the finger.

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski (also of Lord Mantis and Unholy Trinity, and formerly of Nachtmystium) is one of those perfectionists, and when it came to his Avichi’s much-anticipated third record “Catharsis Absolute,” nothing but the very best record was going to satisfy him. If you followed the plight of this record, you know this thing should have been in our hands a half a year or so ago, but Markuszewski continually wasn’t happy with what he was hearing and kept going back to the lab to refine his creation. I kept reading updates, mostly from his label Profound Lore, with bated breath, so much so that it was turning into some mythical thing that never really was going to materialize. Or once it did, it would sound overdone and end up being a disappointment. That wasn’t out of the question. Luckily, that’s the furthest description of “Catharsis Absolute” I can think of. This thing is a triumph.

avichi coverWe last heard from Markuszewski in 2011 on “The Devil’s Fractal,” itself one hellacious record that set itself apart in the black metal field. Now, three years later, we’re hearing Avichi grow into a more refined form, one that isn’t afraid to destroy boundaries on “Catharsis Absolute.” Fuck what black metal is supposed to be, and forget the rigid rules that always get spread over the subgenre, Markuszewski obviously was hellbent on doing something that not only extended his canvas but that would satisfy the creative fire burning inside of him. It’s a record that sounds like an artist truly coming into his own and hitting all the right buttons. It’s a defining record for Markuszewski and Avichi, and it’s sure to be one you’ll hear about all over again 11 months from now when those pesky year-end lists pop up.

The album trickles open with introductory “Repercussion,” a brief song dressed by simple piano and a sense of foreboding. Then “Flames in My Eyes” just ignites, with metallic savagery, wild shrieks, and even some monotone clean singing behind it all, adding an extra sense of frozen sentiment. “Your soul is in my eyes!” Markuszewski howls, as the song rambles and slashes to its vicious finish. “Lightweaver” is an incredible song, one of the best in Avichi’s arsenal, and a perfect example as to how much this project has grown and progressed. While it’s heavy and uncompromising, there’s a dark, murky, New Wave-style keyboard line that slinks in, adding an extra dark pocket of melody. There are monstrous vocals and powerful guitar work, raging with power and emotion, and it’s everything Nachtmystium always seemed to be aiming for but never really accomplished. Markuszewski sure as hell figured it out.

“Voice of Intuition” begins feeling dreary and depressing, but that gives way to a volcanic eruption with Markuszewski howling, “Speak to me!” with such force, you think he’s talking to you. There are ominous sheets of guitars that rain down on the track, adding more blackness to the proceedings, and once the song reaches its conclusions, the growls reach a new animalistic level. It’s just crushes. “All Gods Fall” is another head turner, running 12:36 and acting as the perfect epic. It begins slowly, with chimes slowly blowing in, like a ghost sleigh traveling through the night, and eventually doom thunder erupts and begins the storm in earnest. The singing is cleaner through most of the song, with more keyboards setting up behind all of the thunder, and it’s a totally different glimpse into Markuszewski’s personality. As the song builds, it does get heavier, as do the vocals, with Markuszewski crying, “A new awareness reveals itself to me.” It feels like that line could be a summary for this record. The closing title cut is a near-eight-minute track played entirely on piano, which some may see as a risk for a black metal album but that works beautifully on bringing the album to a close. The song is eerie, somber, emotional, morbid, and dark, and when the music finally fades away, you cannot help but feel utterly transformed by what you just witnessed.

Avichi has gone from being a great band to one that’s figured out how to get to that next creative level. Markuszewski took chances, trusted his instinct, and made one of the most interesting black metal albums in some time. It’s only January, but there’s not likely to be another record that sounds like this one in this subgenre in 2014. Of course, pretenders will arise, but we all know the source material. “Catharsis Absolute” is Avichi’s masterpiece, though it might just be the beginning of what’s going to be a really special run. Go buy this.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Avichi/87428

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/