Some albums just need to be experienced and tend to defy description, and Ageless by Hesychast is one of those as their atmospheric black metal is both disruptive and peaceful at the same time.
Hesychast, member of a movement dedicated to contemplation, originating among the Orthodox monks of Mount Athos in the 14th century, characterized by a practice of prayer seeking union with God beyond our senses and understanding. The word originates from the Greek for “stillness” the band describes the practice as seeking “to encounter the Lord in a more intimate fashion and to set the heart in constant prayer, even while at work with other things.” Given that, it seems like this would not necessarily fit will with metal but when you delve into atmospheric black metal, this does make sense. The album itself clocks in around forty minutes which provides a good bit of time for songs to meander about and establish moods. “Волны Смерти” starts off the album and wastes no time setting the tone once the music starts. For those aficionados of black metal, the guitar and blast beats are a give away as to what awaits. The overall tone and pacing of the music identifies it immediately, even if the overall sound is a bit subdued. The raspy growled, near shriek vocals are perfect black metal as well and again, instantly recognizable. The song has the potential to be very disruptive, but comes across almost quiet and relaxing, near peaceful, which is not your typical response to black metal, but this is more atmospheric in nature, reminding me a bit of Vials of Wrath (highly recommended). The song does get a bit more stripped down and a male choral section of melodious chant takes over, nearly overpowering the guitars and drums.
“Discordant” goes in a bit of a different direction, abandoning the black metal vocals and substituting in some deep, clean male vocals for a bit of the song. Rest assured though the black metal vocals come in later while the music remains similar between the two sections, showing the versatility in the sound, much of which is a product of the production and mixing.
“Trace of Breath” continues in the same manner, but the guitars in the beginning have a bit more of an ominous tone and a greater role in forging the overall sound of the song. Despite the blast beats, the songs tend to be mid-paced to even slow, but not plodding. As often happens with black metal, bass is there but hard to really find in the mix. Often black metal will feature a guitar tone that is relentless and almost like drilling but the rough edges are softened here though the patterns are the same. A haunting, somewhat sorrowful keyboard interlude helps divide the song and provides a nice change of pace and chance for the band to shift things around for the rest of the song.
“Trisagion” begins with some guitar effects and then a heavy church organ-lie keyboard influence comes into the song, which is a spoken prayer offset by some choral, chant segments, all of which is backed by the ever-present blast beats. In contrast, “Eye” returns to the black metal roots and among the tracks on the album is perhaps the least atmospheric and most aggressive in tone and style. The title track “Ageless” then goes in a completely different direction, being an acapella chant and somehow this still works. Voices are deep and full and the different parts work together very well.
Hesychast have pulled together a great collection of songs and released and interesting project. Atmospheric black metal done in this manner seems to be a bit of a contradiction. In one sense, the music and vocals are brutal and abrasive, but in another, there is beauty and a sense of peace provided by the overall arrangement and production of the music. Difficult to put into words, it’s almost as if this needs to be experienced for it to makes sense and that will be time well spent.
Written by John Jackson
1. Волны Смерти 06:07
2. Discordant 04:35
3. Trace of Breath 07:10
4. Eye 05:47
5. Moth and Rust 06:26
6. Ageless 03:00
7. Trisagion 07:01
Скот – All instruments, vocals
Ефам – All instruments, vocals
Record Label: Independent, Sept. 2016
Video (audio) for ‘Moth and Rust’
Video (audio) for ‘Волны Смерти