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Bathyum - The Church of Euthanasia Award winner

The Church of Euthanasia
by Max Elias at 09 July 2019, 3:54 AM

BATHYUM is a one-man project out of West Virginia—which is actually more common than you would think among black metal artists. The one-man band aspect, not the being from West Virginia. This release is very heavy on atmospheric and eerie elements over pure harsh screaming noise; the first song takes about a full minute of chanting and chorals before gradual rolling drums introduce the harsh guitars and hoarse screams. The drumming is constant and spastic, teetering on the edge of blast beat territory. Oddly, but pleasantly, meldoeath-y guitar lines weave between the chaos; it almost sounds like black metal by way of ARCH ENEMY. The vocals even have more in common with Johan Livia and Angela Gossow than with quintessentially black metal vocalists like Quorthon. Particularly around the 4-minute mark of ‘Penance’, when the song shifts into a more stomping feel, it starts to sound like blackened melodeath—the simple melody at around 5 minutes in gives me major Stortregn vibes, which can only be good.

Like the opener, ‘The Church of Euthanasia’ starts off soft and slow, with acoustic guitar under a rasped soliloquy. Then the tremolo riffing roars in, with those same ARCH ENEMY-meets-BATHORY vibes as before. But unlike before, the intensity does not stay at one level. The song shifts back to its gloomy acoustics in-between tremolo guitar attacks. The drums are also less technical overall here, reaching a galloping frenzy at the chorus, and continuing over a melody line before cutting out abruptly. Then, hauntingly held bass notes bring the energy to a crawl sustained by cavernous chords. It’s very Chuck Schuldiner. I should mention that the song is just about 8 minutes long, but really didn’t feel that way to me. I can say that about all my favorite bands; it’s the reason I can listen to Master of Puppets on repeat for days, for example.

‘The Church of Euthanasia’ left us hanging on fading atmospheric chord work, and ‘Summoning the Army of Spectral Stars’ wastes no time with buildup, crashing right in with forward-marching riffs and bringing back the melodic death metal by the end of the first minute. The drums are a bit more sophisticated on this song, introducing some groovy hi-hat work over the tremolo riffs. The closest thing to a drop in energy here is when the guitars sustain for a bit and cue in a long series of rolling drums, that never let up right to the end of the song.

These songs are all fairly long; ‘Church of Euthanasia’ is eight minutes, the first song was about seven, and ‘Witches of Bidston Hill’ is six minutes. Although it is very clearly the same band (in this case, person) who wrote these songs, and they do not sound radically different from one another, they also do not seem monotonous. ‘Witches of Bidston Hill’ is where a sense of sameness starts to creep in, but luckily it moves around enough to avoid that creep turning into something more. I particularly like the melody thrown in at around 4:12, accompanied by a noticeable shift in the drum feel. It sort of drones, but also bounces, and is a good prelude to the black metal madness that closes the song.

Angst-ridden sonic torment is one of the sides of the black metal coin (triangle? Square? Dodecahedron? There are a lot of ways to do black metal), and it is showcased in force on ‘I Never Asked to Be Born’, which given the title isn’t exactly shocking. What is a little unexpected is the softly rung out acoustic guitar interlude at about the three-minute mark. A little under a minute of this transitions into a grandiose melodic section spearheaded by the high end of the guitars. The ringing melody drops the tremolo dynamic part of the way through, continuing until the song fades away. Another great use of acoustic instruments is the intro to ‘Echoes Through Shoreton Woods’ which also brings in some sound effects of birds chirping. Black metal bands love sound effects. This is also the first time I feel I can understand some of the lyrics, as the pounding riffs cut away during the verses, leaving Wyvern’s rasp front and center. It’s a fairly KING DIAMOND-inspired tale of a haunted wood. It seems like a common device of the album is to have the blackened, slightly folky melody in the song come in towards the end, and ride it out over the rest of the song.

Second-to-last is ‘Ceremony of the Pagan Queen’, which opens with a bleaker version of some classic speed metal riffs. This continues into the galloping guitar verses. The drums and vocals remain firmly in the extreme metal domain, however. Some good riffs in this one. The last track, ‘Ingimund’s Return’, is also the longest at about nine and a half minutes. Whoever Ingimund was, his return is hailed with plenty of atmospheric guitar and drum fills. By the time the vocals kick in, the song has progressed into a galloping frenzy of interwoven melodies and dynamic shifts, from blistering to marching. And aside from a brief acoustic passage about two-thirds through, the song continues unleashing its blackened melodeath attack from then on.

This is a remarkable effort by a single person, even if he only programmed and did not physically play every instrument used here. The way multiple styles are blended but the core is never lost is impressive. And as I mentioned earlier, it passes the litmus test of long songs not seeming long.

Originality: 9
Songwriting: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Penance
2. The Church of Euthanasia
3. Summoning the Army of Spectral Stars
4. Witches of Bidston Hill
5. I Never Asked to be Born
6. Echoes through Shoreton Woods
7. Ceremony of the Pagan Queen
8. Ingimunds Return
Wyverg - Everything
Record Label: Heathen Tribes


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Edited 03 February 2023

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