By Kyle Harcott
Hailing from Larisa in the Thessaly region of Greece, Aenaon take the listener on an eclectic, twisted avant-blackmetal journey throughout their debut full-length, Cendres Et Sang. The free-form saxjazz of intro ‘Kafkaesque’ is an out-of-the-gate/wasn’t- expecting-that head-scratcher, but the sheer oddity of it is especially tasty as it segues flawlessly into ‘Suncord’- a wickedly infernal, modern-black crusher not far removed from latter-day Satyricon. The band brings the free-jazz back two-thirds of the way through the track, and the incorporation of this interlude within a blistering black metal warstomp seems absolutely mental, but bychrist it works, and well.
‘Psychonautic Odyssey’ follows up and it’s a little more-straight-up: a classic, foot-stomping metal-march bit of riffery with the occasional tasteful blastbeat here and there. The drumming on the track is more akin to technical death-metal than standard-issue blackblast and its precision really drives the song. Then – good lord, out of nowhere, that IS a bit of Hammond organ I [barely] hear, just before the guitar solo! I thought I was hearing things, as it’s the only time the Hammond audibly appears in the track – an interesting, left-field easter egg that threw me for a loop, since the instrument doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else on the record.
‘Grand Narcotic Harvest’ comes walloping back with complete sturm-und-drang blast, but utilizes clean, almost choral vocals on the chorus. The track also chimes in an ’ooo-spooky’ breakdown interlude toward the end, incorporating what sounds like a theremin, to much Addams Family effect. On this track, as on others, I am impressed by Aenaon’s adventurousness, much along the same lines as bands like latter-day Dødheimsgard or Khold. It’s somewhat refreshing to see such expressiveness in a genre that sometimes prides itself on how rigid and within certain tenets it can stay.
Cendres Et Sang, as a whole album, stands on its own merit, so much so that I’m hard pressed to cherry-pick standout tracks. Everything here is brilliant, and all ten songs ultimately make the album worthy of repeated listens front-to-back. That said, though – I have to admit that there is one absolute show-stopper on the album, and of course they saved it for last: the band’s inflammatory cover of ‘In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)’ from the Eraserhead soundtrack. The songs opens with some torch-song piano, and soaring female vocals that remind me vaguely of a subdued Diamanda Galás, until Aenaon see fit to turn the song on its ear and do what they do best, thundering down the mountain with their primordial avant-black-thrash. While a lesser band making the same attempt would have simply butchered the song in the name of heavy metal, Aenaon have actually managed to give the song a new voice, and ultimately make it their own with this radical interpretation. Turning a torch song into such a Wagnerian show of force could have been a complete mess, but I am left speechless by this, sincerely impressed.
With their latest signing in Aenaon, Code666 continues to cement its name as the vanguard of forward-thinking blackmetal. Stellar release after stellar release, the label has proven its cutting-edge mettle time and again, and Cendres Et Sang is only further proof of the label’s impeccable taste. Seek this out at once.
(Aural Music/Code 666)