After making an impression with debut album “Temples of Transcendent Evolution” back in 2010, it was inevitable that Basingstoke’s Ageless Oblivion would not prove to be a one hit wonder. That record’s brutal yet intelligent death metal was smarter than one could reasonably expect from your average bunch of young pretenders and those in the know have waited patiently for the follow-up. What we didn’t expect, however, was for sophomore album “Penthos” to be of such gargantuan scope, to be so vast and challenging and for the bar for UK death metal to be raised to such giddy heights.
Clocking in at around sixty-six minutes, “Penthos” is one of the most punishing, expansive and downright concrete heavy records to emerge in a long while. While firmly rooted in death metal, as the opening assault of ‘Wolf’s Head’ emphatically demonstrates with its venomous Hour of Penance style technicality, there is a strong post metal influence irrevocably intertwined throughout the record’s very sinews lending an overwhelmingly apocalyptic air to proceedings. The influence of Neurosis is ever-present, a black carrion crow surveying the carnage with malign approval.
Tracks such as ‘The Midas Throat’ and ‘Glacial Blood’ are death metal taken to the next level with their rampant aggression, sickeningly lethal percussion and hostile, warlike atmosphere. Riffs come thick and fast, drums pummel like an onslaught of battle-bred horses and the vocals of David Porter bellow with fierce and authoritative power. He also isn’t averse to the occasional higher screams which keep things that little bit more varied.
The album’s centrepiece is the sprawling ‘Where Wasps Now Nest’, a triumph in menace and atmosphere that fully deserves the over-used epithet ‘epic.’ Clocking in at twelve minutes, this is reminiscent of Nile’s ‘Unas Slayer of the Gods’ as we are taken on a harrowing journey into the underworld as the gradually building heaviness snuffs out all light. This is just so much more ambitious than most death metal acts ever get in their entire career and it’s frightening to think that Ageless Oblivion are soaring to such heights and diving to such blackened depths on only their second full-length.
The intensity is maintained as the record progresses and even increases on the jacked-up brutality of ‘Furnace’ which has a whiff of Gojira around its meaty riffs. Or maybe it’s because it feels like being trampled by Godzilla himself when dealing with such merciless and destructive heaviness, whilst simultaneously being utterly in awe of such a powerful force of nature. Either way, these feelings remain for the entirety of “Penthos” up to and including the double-edged title track ‘Penthos Lament/Omnipresent’ with its harrowing Neurosis-esque doomscapes and bludgeoning, blackened riffage.
Like being pitched into a battle between angry Titans and vengeful Gods while the pit of hell yawns nearby, listening to “Penthos” is an intense and overwhelming experience. For we also get to witness the aftermath of the battle as flaming ashes blow across the ruined landscape and we wade, knee deep in corpses through the blood-red mire. This is everything death metal should be and more, for instead of pretending to be serial killers or that they live in a crypt with only an ancient grimoire for company, the members of Ageless Oblivion have channelled their energy into penning multi-layered, forward thinking extreme metal that is impossible to ignore. And it would be criminal for you to let “Penthos” pass you by, for there won’t be a better death metal album released this year.