Esoctrilihum
Astraal Constellations of the Majickal Zodiac


4.7
superb

Review

by Robert Garland STAFF
June 2nd, 2023 | 15 replies


Release Date: 05/12/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And the makings of a career defining triple album.

Listening to an Esoctrilihum album is an experience, but the man behind the project is prolific to say the least. I say “least” especially considering one-man band and multi-instrumentalist to the nth degree, Asthâghul seems to drop an album roughly every ten months. More specifically, since Mystic Echo From a Funeral Dimension was released in 2017, Esoctrilihum has released ten studio full-lengths and a smattering of EPs. Always epic, always full effort—Esoctrilihum albums cornerstone a niche within the more extreme black metal scene coming out of France. Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac is no different, except for the fact that this album is actually a three part monster surpassing two hours of run-time. That’s pretty cool! The question here however is “how does one man with so much material balance the quality against the quantity—namely, does Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac maintain Asthâghul’s quest for quality compositions and gnarled black metal aesthetics? The answer is yes, and then some. The short answer to this lengthy review is that Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac is everything that defines what Esoctrilihum is, but also sets the standard for all extreme black metal to come. Astraal Constellations… is as ambitious as it is long, as fantastic as the fictional story that drives it and intensely immersive down to the album’s twenty-one minute closer—the abrasiveness and inaccessible expectations of black metal be damned.

That’s the crux though right? There’s simply so much material at hand, here and throughout the rest of the act’s discography that it would be understandable if Astraal Constellations’… quality dipped even the slightest, but for a hundred and thirty-one minutes Asthâghul takes on a mystical journey through a far away cosmos. For the sake of catering to a reader’s attention span (and perhaps brevity too) we’ll break Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac down into its three sides.

Part One: “In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, The Cosmic Bull God” is a tale in which “violence dissolves in a thousand hypnotic rivulets and enveloping mystical melodies” reads the album’s presser. Ideally however it's a summary of Esoctrilihum music so far, especially relevant to the last few records, Consecration of the Spiritus Flesh, Saopth’s and Funeral to wit Asthâghul assaults the senses, a complete smothering of audible senses tailor made to provide occult brutal cross sections of this new mystical tale. “Arcane Majestrïx Noir'' launches, no…erupts with energies—a transfusion of speed and mysticism. Asthâghul’s signature bark punches through the cataclysmic din, as if our protagonist is readying themselves for a battle against this cosmic bull god, cinematic aesthetic presented as occult black metal stereotypes. Esoctrilihum dismisses any notion of a slow build opening this two hour (plus) beast. “Tȃimonh Ѳx” and its counterpart, “Ѳxphiliastisme'' highlight this first disc. A contrast of melody in the face of death meets black metal romp. The focus on the former is a haunting repose, double bass and riffs a distant, building background noise. While the latter is a transformative atmospheric climb through the turmoil and madness brought on by the bull god.

While the album’s first, opening section is sustainably large, bite sized track lengths comparable to the rest of the band’s more tactile lengths dominate and do not exceed the ten-minute mark. Which, frankly, provides enough room for emotion, quashing any notion that this opening section would become overbearing, overwhelming or at all too much. Esoctrilihum’s clout remains firmly intact based on the stature and elaborate tales from which the album’s content stems. “In The Mystic Trance of Tȃimonh Ѳx, The Cosmic Bull God” breathes life into the very beginnings of this three part cosmic escapade. A feat necessary in the face of a whole two more discs to come.

And that’s in the form of Part Two: “In The Presence Of Al*Bḁḁl, The 5-Eyed Star Beast”, a more visceral, direct series which calls back to metal’s more thrash centric riffing and vicious black metal standard. “Al*Baalisme” seems remorseless against a tapestry steering away from the cosmic climes of the first disc. It sets a theme of dichotomy, contrasting against a greater, larger aesthetic. Its vintage escapade is a triumph through abrasiveness and rages on without forgetting who, or what the subject matter is. In comparison to the band’s larger discography, “In The Presence Of Al*Bḁḁl, The 5-Eyed Star Beast” is a detachment of sorts from the more introspective, immersive claustrophobia normally associated with Esoctrilihum music. War rages within Asthâghul’s music, clear indications of the bestial subject matter to which the keys and riffs of “Shadow Lupus of Sæmons-Tuhr”, “Lunaar Phalanx of Ω Draco” and others pertain. Of the new album, this took the longest to digest, to appreciate fully. “Säth-Oxd, Stellar Basilisk” may be on the nose with its pointed Celtic Frost worship, but its atmosphere became completely undeniable after a few repeated listens.

It’s the synth-laden “Säth-Oxd, Stellar Basilisk” and its ritualistic counterpart, “Omniversal Zodiac War” that would eventually bring me to Part Three: “In The Mouth Of Zi-Dynh-Gtir, The Serpen-Time Eater”: two tracks topping the twenty-one-minute mark respectively. “Zi-Dynh-Gtir - Eon Devourer”, the first of the final chapter’s pair, is abundant in dungeon-esque synth and trademark Esoctrilihum aesthetic. The music swells with the loftiness of the synth-born atmospherics and yet is catapulted forwards by Asthâghul’s vicious, rough bark. There is something undeniably akin to the likes of Blut Aus Nord caught deep within the recurring riff melodies that surface, ebb and distort themselves throughout this twenty-minute onslaught of the cosmic sense. As if repetition and eventual slight movement away from the central compositional motif would help ensnare us, trap us in this celestial battle of sorts. Esoctrilihum again proves the power of immersion, despite the sheer inaccessibility of their music. Even the closer, “Serpathei-Ӿythion - Reptilian Time Reversed” takes this theme and still ups the ante. Powerful snare tapestries combine with lovely dungeon melody motifs, the aesthetic intact throughout Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac’s visceral closing minutes. Esoctrilihum doesn’t take the foot off the gas, at least not in regard to intensity and overall theme. “In The Mouth Of Zi-Dynh-Gtir, The Serpen-Time Eater” might feel like it’s wrapping this two-hour (plus) mammoth up neatly, but what it’s actually doing is leaving the wormhole open for more, that’s right more Esoctrilihum, basilisks and beaties.

On a larger, more reaching note, Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac is an undertaking of serious value. Not only does it represent the largest cross section of Esoctrilihum music to date, it’s also the greatest representation of what modern black metal can accomplish if given the right frame and time. A new album from this French visionary may have been predictably expectable, but not on this scale, not with this scope. Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac is epic on multiple fronts, large in context and forever immersive in spite of its larger run-time. Sure, there’s something to be said about this album’s combination of one, two, three sections which may lead into an improvement of overall pacing and intensity, but these hiccups seemingly make inorganic music more natural and expressive even whilst tackling more out of this world themology. That said it would be impractical to break this three-disc record into three separate identities or a trilogy series. Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac would simply be too detached for its listeners to grasp its definite larger than life feel. Astraal Constellations Of The Majickal Zodiac is impressive from start to finish, while being more than worth the time to revisit again and again. While we already know that Asthâghul’s songwriting is prolific, it’s here that we define (and measure) Esoctrilihum music to come. Perhaps Asthâghul might even take a bit of a break now, although truth be told, we already know he’s penning the next chapter, the next constellation and the tyrants of the universe unknown for our pleasure.




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user ratings (68)
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Gary STAFF (4)
Three monstrous pieces compressed into one: the Esoctrilihum Deluxe Experience™️....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2023


18258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

This took longer than I wanted to write. Also, not to take glow of garas' review I thought I'd let it sink in a bit more too. Seriously good stuff. My top 10 AOTY are running out of room.

garas
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2023


8119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Such an admirable review! Perhaps my style is too dry for this kind of stuff... I loved reading your thoughts on this record. Illustrious rating too! :]

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2023


18258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

What do you mean dry dear?



I could have get kept going on, I wanted to expand on the production and how this “sounds” but I was already dragging on a bit.

prnzokoshiro
June 3rd 2023


51 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

in the entire month of May, only 3 albums broke into the top 10 of my annual toplist (The Ocean - Holocene, Immortal - War against All, and Kalmah's self-titled)



1st week of June n already I have 2 partycrashers (the Esoctrilihum this review pertains to at #10... Fjoergyn - Judasmesse the new #1 - knocking Hellripper down to 2)



Esoctrilihum's 'Funeral' is still in my top 30... this one, however, takes the cake (and it's always nice to see I'm not the only person who sees this as a masterpiece from an artist already rackin up a veritable plethora of masterpieces with no sign of trve decline in sight)

metalphil
June 4th 2023


787 Comments


This might be the first black metal project I've ever really resonated with. Going through the entire discography lately and loving a lot of it.

The first part of this album is fire with Taimonh Ox being a standout track. Part 2 is definitely a bit weaker but things pick up towards the end, especially with the 20 minute album closer.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2023


18258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

Good stuff guys. I wish it was less quiet in here though.

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
June 4th 2023


4148 Comments


rippin. havent jammed an esoctrilihum release since seven demons (for no particular reason) and i picked this on a whim to get caught back up. i feel i've made a good choice

GrimDawn
June 4th 2023


111 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Loving the synths on this one. Easily my favorite release of the year so far.

Elynna
June 6th 2023


1449 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love both reviews for this. This is a grower, but I still find myself skipping through some of the second disc. Part One is straight up fire though

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2023


18258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

"rippin. havent jammed an esoctrilihum release since seven demons (for no particular reason) and i picked this on a whim to get caught back up. i feel i've made a good choice"



Interested to hear where you land.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
June 30th 2023


3069 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

Damn, I usually fuck with this project and I love aspects of this but man did I feel every minute of it in a not so good way. Album art is fantastic tho

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
July 2nd 2023


18258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

Oof that score. Better oof is the art sentiment.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 2nd 2023


61276 Comments


Made it approximately 1.5 songs into Funeral and feel my morbid curiosity for this project has wilted significantly

Do his drums still sound like trigger central?

metalphil
July 2nd 2023


787 Comments


I also thought Funeral was a big step down from the other releases. This album was definitely a huge improvement.

metalphil
February 24th 2024


787 Comments


Genuinely surprised this dude hasn't released 2 new albums by now. Re-spinning my favorites from the discog and they still hold up really well



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