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Varathron - Stygian Forces of Scorn
Review: Known to us for the mysterious and otherworldly His Majesty at the Swamp, the Greek black metal founders Varathron created their original atmosphere by making music that aimed for the authenticity to which all underground music aspires. The notion of art and music being a privileged insight shared between creator and listener, authenticity measures an artistic value that cannot be expressed in solely musical terms, or music for its own sake, but in an artistic mode unified on an impression beyond the music -- an idea it portrays, a habit of life it mimics, a transition of emotions it touches -- and is the opposite of both wallpaper style background adornment and music for the sake of music theory, which reaches its fullest expression in jazz and postmodern classical. Authenticity creates permeating atmosphere. When authenticity of this artistic nature is no longer present, the music becomes an objet d'art or the kind of well-crafted but fundamentally decorative work of an artisan, without the philosophical searching if not insight of epic art. With Stygian Forces of Scorn, Varathron aim for the surface atmosphere of the past, but are writing music for the sake of music itself, and the result resembles the last two decades of Iron Maiden: well-crafted songs, interesting guitar work, powerful use of mood... but it has no object beyond the expression itself, or nothing it describes that cannot be found in the music, so falls short of the mystical atmosphere of their earlier works.
Like later Rotting Christ, or the more recent Immortal, this album creates a steady groove through which the band channel a series of heavy metal riffs and tasteful neo-progressive references to internal harmony, with keyboards and vocals layered on it to create a sense of deepending mood. Like Iron Maiden, whose work this album most thoroughly resembles, this is a continuation of the past with beautiful guitar work, albeit sparse like Immortal's All Shall Fail, which results in riffs holding harmonic "place" through even repetition of uniformly paced strumming, and song structures that are embellishments on verse/chorus and not the death metal and black metal standard of songform fit to content and esoteric use of riffs like puzzle pieces to make songs of ever-expanding context. As a result, this album is both a beautiful and easy listen, and no substitute for the more artistic, breathlessly alive earlier works of this band.