How? How is this even possible? I just reviewed a full-length album from this guy in January. And sure, I get that this was “received and recorded” between 2020 and 2022. But … Asthâghul put out multiple albums over those years. Where did he find the time to produce a TRIPLE LP!? Yes, you read that right, this is a triple LP. You’ve got three-albums worth of top-tier avant-garde brilliance in one shot.
While it feels odd to declare anything from Esoctrilihum as “familiar,” the vibes captured on this release all sit comfortably alongside those of Eternity of Shaog and Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath. In other words, Asthâghul has found a galaxy and established clear cosmic dominion over it. Within this array of stars is a vast conglomeration of epic riffs, infectious synths, brutal drums, ripping growls, haunting clean vocals, and a bass that fills the dark-matter void of it all.
The first LP, In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, The Cosmic Bull God, could be best summarized as the catchy, atmospheric episode. It’s the phase of the music that draws you in and hypnotizes you into enduring the entire experience. The synths on this LP are simply irresistible, especially on the the almost-danceable “Atlas Eeïm.” If you want something more guitar-driven, you have a feast of riffs to consume on “Ѳxphiliastisɱe.” However, “Tȃiɱonh Ѳx” is probably the best representation of this LP, and might be the crown jewel of the entire trilogy. Everything comes together perfectly here, it’s the ultimate Esoctrilihum song (though the synth line does remind me of “Sail Away” from the Pure Moods compilation, lol).
But what if you’re a different kind of Esoctrilihum fan? What if you’re the kind who preferred Consecration of the Spiritüs Flesh? Well, then In The Presence Of AlŭBḁḁl, The 5-Eyed Star Beast is the LP for you. Part two of this trilogy of madness is the most energetic, taking a turn away from atmospheric black metal and careening headlong into planet death metal. This is evident immediately from the ferocious “AlŭBḁḁlisɱe” and continues through the triumphant “Lunåår Phalanx of Ω Draco” and brilliantly-named “Omniversal Ȥodiac War.”
To be sure, it’s not exactly correct to segment the LPs by style, but there is an evident emphasis audible on each one. And thus we come to the third LP, In The Mouth Of Zi-Dynh-Gtir, The Serpen-Time Eater. This final, mesmerizing entry in the trilogy contains elements of the previous two, but pulls things into a third dimension: doom. There’s more conspicuous slow, contemplative entries on these two songs, each coming in at more than 20 minutes. This LP on its own would be a titanic achievement, the fact it comes packaged with two other masterworks is all the more staggering.
In fact, “staggering” is a good word to characterize this entire trilogy. On this release, Asthâghul has imagined (or translated to us, as he would say) an entire plane of sonic existence for us to grapple with. But the truly brilliant aspect of it all is this: none of it feels tedious. I normally have zero patience for artists that try and pull things like this. And if they’re of the avant-garde tendency on top of that: forget it! But Esoctrilihum is just different.
Although each LP has its strengths and (very few) weaknesses, I’d say part one, In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, The Cosmic Bull God, is truly the essential entry. Asthâghul‘s mind for melody allows him to craft so many memorable synth lines, towering him above 99% of dungeon-synth artists out there. And that’s before you consider just how insane the drums are. And when I listen closely, the precision of each snare hit and kick is incredible, but I don’t hear any dead-ringers for programming. So I think that’s a legit kit he’s using. Nuts.
The other two LPs are brilliant as well, though the third one is more of an immersive listen that you have to fully commit to. Parts one and two have the bangers that make you want to press “replay” and stack your playlists with your favorites. Part three is just a black hole you need to willingly fall into. Not everyone is into that, and it will be the most challenging for people who aren’t the most committed fans of Esoctrilihum.
Taken as a whole, Atraal confirms what has been clear since Asthâghul found his footing with Eternity of Shaog: Esoctrilihum is the best avant-garde extreme metal entity in existence right now. There are a ton of really interesting, technical, weird, and offputting bands out there. Most of them are really boring. There’s also a lot of catchy and brutal bands out there. Most of them are really repetitive and predictable. Asthâghul, channeling whatever cosmic entity has chosen him, has avoided all the traps and reaped all the rewards. And we get to share them. Lucky us.