Aetheria Conscientia - Corrupted Pillars of Vanity
Experimental Black Metal, Jazz
5 songs (55:56)
Release year: 2021
Official Bandcamp
Reviewed by Goat

To use their official name, Æthĕrĭa Conscĭentĭa are an absolutely over-the-top act from Nantes, France, who play an experimental form of black metal with more than a little jazz influence. This is most obvious in the form of their using a saxophone as an integral instrument, giving their lengthy, atmospheric rumbles an added experimental air. The band sound as traditional and violent as you'd expect, but achieve this in a very unique way, allowing their instruments to shine of their own accord and giving moments their own spotlights. And once you've gotten your head around the looser, more experimental structure of tracks here, particularly fifteen minute opener Asporhos' Altering Odyssey, which begins with almost MENA acoustic folksiness before branching out, soon going for a melodic but very blackened assault with the saxophone upfront. As it continues the sax takes something of a lead, several sections stretching out into instrumental explorations with a fun false ending around the nine-minute mark that quickly grows into a whole other piece, making the lengthy track feel much shorter.

And from then on, there's a lot to like about these Corrupted Pillars. Shortest track present at just seven-minutes plus (!) The Corrupted Sacrament takes a more strident tone with a mid-paced blackened feel, saxophone wailing away behind a wall of noise, switching between black metal grime and almost Tinariwen-esque bliss without either feeling forced. The black metal is there as an element to be diced and sliced as avant-garde fuel for hatred, but it does give the music a heaviness that it otherwise would lack and ensure that the right audience finds this. There's a real air of progressive experimentation throughout, coming to the fore in sections where the saxophone boldly takes the melodic lead before retreating behind guitar and drums to form just another part of the band's sound, almost alternating between blackened torrents and more abstract sax-led experimental metal sections.

This is built upon in following pieces like Liturgy for the Ekzunreh, opening with ambient world music in all but name with throat-sung vocal flourishes, and building into groovy riff-fuelled jazz-metal invocations. The metal elements are rarely the focus, which will restrict the band's appeal on this site, but so beautiful are moments like the ambience that opens Elevation in Arrogance that it's hard to care, particularly once the metallic assault ensues and continues. And album highlight Collapse in Penance is worth close examination, beginning with post-metal melody and soon building into saxophone-enabled avant-gardery that culminates in violent battery with a hefty side dose of King Crimson-esque meandering. As a whole, it's difficult to sum this album up; certainly not easy listening, but also a very niche appeal given the blending of genres. What can you do but shrug and invocate the very specific blackjazz community, long may this mash-up continue to inspire and entertain!

Killing Songs :
The Corrupted Sacrament, Elevation in Arrogance, Collapse in Penance
Goat quoted 85 / 100
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