Well, when it came time to pick the newest fad in metal music, I certainly wasn't expecting post-black metal* to become a genre. And yet, so many bands have been affected by Alcest's sublime, beautiful interpretation of black metal and post-rock that it's really not too surprising to see others taking the genre in a new direction. Cue the debut from mysterious Spanish four-piece Apocynthion, titled Sidereus Nuncius.
The wonderful thing about post-black metal is its blatant juxtaposition of the sublime with the brutal, which allows the artists to explore a very unconventional headspace in its listeners. Apocynthion use that incredible contrast to explore man's insignificance in the universe, the fundamental absurdness and cosmic awe that necessarily come from trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. The magnificence of such fearful structures like the atomic bomb, blind alien communication attempts, or the inexorably expanding universe, In that way the music sounds fittingly reverent, the longing vocals and purposefully euphoric writing all but buckling under the weight of trying to capture just a fraction of the unknowable. It's arresting music that uses the genre well, growing into new territory without rehashing the work of those before them. They even manage to use a harmonica in their wistful pensiveness, effecting this sense of desolation and wonderment.
In fact, there isn't really anything weak about the music. While it never quite reaches perfection, Apocynthion's compositions remain steadily at a high quality throughout. The eerie, haunting melodies always flirt with blissful arrest, but never letting themselves become so gratifying as to detract from the build up of tension. The only fault I can find with the album is that it was released so close to Deafheaven's Sunbather; it's unfair how overshadowed this truly excellent album is in comparison. But maybe they can ride off of the increased popularity in the genre; either way, this album needs to be heard by more people than it will be.
I'm actually surprised at how many fresh, different takes there have been in post-black metal What could've been a long line of following the leader has managed to evolve into a reasonably diverse subgenre--and Apocynthion are turning out to be one of the best at it. This is one of the most satisfying albums I've heard all year, and also one of the most difficult. You must give Sidereus Nuncius a listen, and prepare to be crippled by it.
* I'm calling it this because that's the common genre tag for "that Alcesty stuff" on Bandcamp.
Recommended if you like: Alcest, Deafheaven, ?erná
8.5 / 10
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