PICK OF THE WEEK: Esoctrilihum’s black metal space opera bursts on icy ‘Astraal Constellations…’

I honestly don’t know how Asthâghul does it. The sole creator of death/black metal force Esoctrilihum has released 10 full-length albums over the past six years, all of them challenging, none of them like any other entry in his canon. There have been four Esoctrilihum albums released since last June alone, all of them stellar, and that should have prepared us for Asthâghul’s most ambitious work yet.

“Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac” is that 10th record, the project’s second album this year, but this one is a gargantuan. The three-movement, 14-track, 130-minute creation obviously is a lot to handle, a trio of works grouped into one package that might not be optimal for single-setting listening. That depends on the person, and perhaps it’s more easily digestible that way, but I found it far less cumbersome to approach than Metallica’s new record, which is 53 minutes shorter! Here, Asthâghul unleashes this sprawling space opera about “a war between bizarre zodiacal deities who contend for dominion over reality through psychic control of minds” (the album is packaged with an insert that fully fleshes out the trilogy’s plot). Each section differs from each other, though they work nicely as a cohesive whole, and the focus, metallic violence, and psychedelic pressure make for a journey that’s brutal and imaginative, absolutely overflowing with madness and destruction.

The first section is “Part I – In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, the Cosmic Bull God” and it starts with “Arcane Majestrïx Noir” that unloads right away with slashing screams and monstrous musical swirling, smashing with creaky visions, maniacal bursts, and mystical hell. “Saturnyôsmachia” has keys invading, strangulating vocals, and a swirling mission that adds a strange streak amid the carnage. The pace toys with your mind, sounds swarming, detached singing making things feel strangely hypnotic, ripping through echoes. “Atlas Eeïm” has breezier moments but also ones of mammoth panic, the synth dashing and sometimes icing, the fury trudging and coming at you with force. Melodies churn and simmer before everything disappears into space. “Tȃiɱonh Ѳx” is a mix of darkness and fire, the keys again acting as a major cog in the track, the howls jerking as the black metal sequences make the scene feel even more volatile. Sludge clogs veins, spirits rise, and the fantastical finish makes blood race. “Ѳxphiliastisɱe” basks in ceremonial organs, sweltering amid a driving force, shadowy forces lurking in the shadows. The swelling base mixes into spacey keys and then isolation, strange transmissions making your brain feel like it’s working overtime. “Uran-Ѳx Death Star” drills and destroys, fierce growls flex their muscles, and the pummeling trades off with mystical passages. The drama builds, the keys take on an orchestral heat, and fiery growls and grim power bring part one to an infernal end.

“Part II – In The Presence Of AlŭBḁḁl, The 5-Eyed Star Beast” dawns with “AlŭBḁḁlisɱe” that storms and trudges, the howls going for the throat. The aggression is obvious, and it continues through these six cuts, gaining ferocity and racing, fluid speed exciting and sparking adrenaline, everything flooding the senses. “Shadow Lupus of Sæɱons-Ŧuhr” bleeds in with the drums commanding and the synth taking on a dungeon vibe, the hellish majesty hitting a high point. Animalistic howls rage as the riffs take over, synth pumps, and the shrieks curdle blood. “Skorpïus Nebŭlah Tyrant” hisses and slays, the synth generating dreams, a wondrous, strange aura making its presence heavily felt. Riffs darken as the playing ices your synapses, adding incredible pressure before combusting. “Lunåår Phalanx of Ω Draco” is immersive and thunderous, the ridiculously monstrous vocals feeling even more demented, destroying even as the keys try to work as a cooling agent. The drumming totally combusts, rampaging through the glistening nightmare, exiting in a synth glaze. “Säth-Oxd, Stellar Basilisk” starts bathing in the clouds, making you think you might have some breathing room, but it’s short lived. Everything is blown apart as tyrannical screams shred flesh, chant-like calls ripple your spine with chills, and hypnosis becomes a hurricane force that levels cities and psyches. The middle section concludes with “Omniversal Ȥodiac War” bursting through the clouds, chewing at your jugular, majestic and monstrous forces uniting for the attack. Horror folds in as spacious leads exhale new life, and then vicious bends rob you of breath, racing and stirring, ending the violence on the surface of a place devoid of oxygen.

“Part III – In The Mouth Of Zi-Dynh-Gtir, The Serpen-Time Eater” opens with “Ȥi-Dynh-Ɠtir: Eon Devourer” a 21:01-long epic that is both haunting and gnarly, punishing with immersive dreams built on orchestral wonders. The track unloads and delivers inhumane insanity, the carnage gathering as the synth swarms, and your imagination rockets. The vocals go from full-throated violence to creaky terror, phantastic energies softening the blow before bleeding out into the unknown. Album closer “Serpatɧei-Ӿythioŋ : Reptilian Time Reversed” runs 21:45 and immediately strikes a sense of urgency, the drums slaughtering, cavernous power making every muscle ache. The playing slips into the cosmos, meeting up with raw growls before bursting anew into an unexpected calm. Keys drip as breezier temperatures greet you, though you know full well a storm rages on the other side. Shrieks stab through the mystery, the track grinds you in its gears, and immersive keys splatter, everything surrounding it hulking with the last gasps of damage that leave scars that’ll never go away.

It’s an understatement to say “Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac” is a lot to digest because it honestly is. It’s a massively stuffed record from Esoctrilihum, yet it’s brimming with life and inspiration that it never truly feels as long as it is. That’s a major win for the ultra-productive Asthâghul who seems to have an endless supply of ideas that he freely turns into some of the most imaginative and sometimes completely terrifying black metal. This is his most impressive creation so far amid a catalog brimming with touchstones records.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100027310076900

To buy the album (Europe), go here: https://metalodyssey.8merch.com/record-label/i-voidhanger-records/

Or here (U.S.): https://metalodyssey.8merch.us/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/