Forming in Norway in early 2016, doomsters Æsthetica have been relentlessly plugging away at their own take on doom, a trippy fuzzed out affair that has at last culminated in debut album Sonorous Æon. Can these four Norwegians bring something new to the table or are they just a constant hædache for the kæyboard?
Symbol jokes aside, Sonorous Æon sounds far more accomplished than its status as a debut album suggests. Seamlessly blending instrumental elements, soaring vocal hooks and the kind of fuzzed-out psychedelia more associated with genre staples such as Electric Wizard or Sleep.
Opening with an extremely brief spoken word passage, first track ‘Haze’ sets the tone for the record with glacial riffs and vocals not too far removed stylistically from Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. ‘Haze’ has an almost ethereal quality to it, a spaced-out, relaxed feel that also permeates the entire record. Clocking at just under 6 minutes it’s actually one of the shorter, less experimental tracks on the record but acts, along with mesmerising closer ‘Ekstasis’ as an excellent bookend to the album. The album rarely lifts itself from the mire, but when it does in the final moments of ‘Haze’ it almost feels as if the band are rushing for the exit and is a jarring end to an otherwise engaging track.
The spoken word is a recurring motif at the start of the album, with a reading of the song’s namesake, Todesfuge by Holocaust survivor Paul Celan taking up the entire first half of slow-burning second. It acts as an almost entirely instrumental interlude before we reach our first marathon on the album. It isn’t the only instrumental song on the album, and despite the lack of vocals there is still enough to engage with but does lack any sense of progression, a drawback utterly eliminated by the aforementioned ‘Ekstasis’ but also by the following third track ‘La Paz’.
This is truly where Æsthetica begin to shine; when they put down all pretences of writing short songs and indulge in lengthy, doomy yet ultimately progressive marathons of song-craft. ‘La Paz’ clocks in at around ten and a half minutes, the first half of which is a slow buildup of tension, clean picked guitar melodies and cymbal work. All this crescendos around the halfway point where the band truly bring heavy back with a crushing rendition of the previous motif. Closer ‘Ekstasis’ is an even finer example of this, sprawling well over nine minutes culminating in one of the finest emotional moments of the album. Penultimate track ‘Worshipper’ brings the Sabbath back again, with arguably the best vocal track on the record.If there is a gripe to be had it’s that strangely the shorter songs seem to outstay their welcome more than the longer cuts on offer, and the vocal performance doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the rest of the album.
With Sonorous Æon, Æsthetica have crafted an album that incorporates elements of post-rock, prog and even some blues seamlessly. The longest cuts give free rein to the band’s creativity and truly let the music breathe, creating some haunting and mesmerising soundscapes. This is a remarkably well-formed debut album and one that certainly marks the band as one to follow in future.
Highlights: La Paz, Ekstasis