Amnion - Cryptic Wanderings
Oniric Records
Black Metal
7 songs (40:48)
Release year: 2008
Oniric Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

If we had a 'Mindfuck Of The Month' skeleton as part of our bony award system line-up then I would almost definitely be awarding it to these fellows. Hailing from Spain and featuring members of other Black Metal warmongers like Empty, Atman and Körgull the Exterminator (sure to gain a review of their own from the Voivodic promise of their name) Amnion play a form of Black Metal that whilst initially seeming full of noisy Darkthroneisms and the sort of tired invective that you've sat through a thousand times before, soon proves itself to be something quite other. It was actually the eerie album art that drew me into this, the subtle strangeness of the cloaked figure's face, the arms reaching from the background, and when I gave the music a listen my instincts were confirmed. The band state their objective to be the spreading of plague and death, and the atmospheric sound on debut full-length Cryptic Wanderings is that and more. It's a strange mixture of 'true' Black Metal and something more - as many moments of screaming vocals, scraping riffs and bludgeoning blasts that there are, there are plenty of moments which seize the atmospheric impulse that most bands can only hint at and simply run with it.

The production certainly helps matters. Regulars will know that I don't like talking about an album's production unless there's a really good reason to, and here the job done is terrific. It's old-school and blurry, separating the instruments out so that they almost seem to come from different directions, vocals, drums and guitars three separate entities that each clamour for your attention. The music itself never stays still - clearly influenced by Celtic Frost, the band bring Thrash and Doom into the mixture and throw each at you almost gleefully. Much like praiseworthy USBMmers Cobalt, Amnion take the basic elements of Metal - the riffs, the blasts - and built up deranged structures from them, but whilst Amnion lack the Neurosistic Prog elements and are more basic and blunt in design, they retain the ability to pick the listener up and carry them along, putting you through a cascade of sound that leaves you wondering quite what the hell has just happened.

It's the subtlety to this ability which is really impressive - no tribal drums or female vocalists for Amnion, just the shrieks, yells and howls which come naturally, combined with the odd effect and an impressive knack for the art of Black Metal. This music doesn't run through the forest whooping and howling like others, but it wanders, cryptically, the kind of scary being that people in Eastern Europe make terrifying bedtime stories about. Starting with the short but utterly unsweet tones of the title track, the band prove they're doing something different as a surprisingly catchy riff rumbles beneath almost audible yelling and cymbal-tapping, leading seamlessly into The Dreadful Martyrdom Of The Most Cruel. The catchiness is retained for a few brief moments before the band truly take off, an unholy cacophony bursting forth like festering slime as vocals turn to growls and strangled whispers, gradually getting more and more hysterical before juddering to a stop.

Towards Desolate Places My Wanderings Lead, the following track, does exactly what it says on the tin, continuing this Black Metal magic to some desolate places indeed as the music hits Doomy depths, and then Dominants & Perpetuals Echoes Of Discouragement lifts it out and into realms much spacier, the riffing turning ambient and strangely epic. I could spend another paragraph or three talking about how the drumming seems to be someone frantically rubbing two knives together, or the from-out-of-nowhere acoustic break, heck, even that one of the tracks is called The Harm Caused By The Most Baneful Of All Trees, but there's very little worth mocking here. Fans of Black Metal done the traditional way will be as sick as I am of bands who can replicate the original sounds whilst bearing none of the atmosphere with them, and it's always a delight to stumble across a band that can, especially a band that firmly believes that putting a Thrash break in your spooky Black Metal album is a good thing.

Amnion are certainly not going to appeal to everyone, the sudden shifts in vocals sure to cause a few furrowed brows, but those who genuinely enjoy Darkthrone's classic albums for the sound itself (as opposed to the 'look at me, I'm listening to Darkthrone!' crowd) will find in Amnion a similar yet very different take on the style. Fine, so giving songs titles such as Sick Of The Light in these modern times when Pink Floyd influence is de rigour in your Black Metal is incredibly passé, yet a vibrant underground exists which takes this kind of thing very seriously indeed. Not to knock the Floyd at all, but it's wonderful to hear that bands are still creating good music from the basic Black Metal building blocks, and I wish I had discovered this back in August 2008 when it was released. Better late than never; I'm sure I could come back in ten years' time and find that Amnion are still wandering cryptically, and all kudos to them for it.

Killing Songs :
The Dreadful Martyrdom Of The Most Cruel, Dominants & Perpetuals Echoes Of Discouragement, Sick Of The Light, The Harm Caused By The Most Baneful Of Trees
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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