Following four years of silence and the band's most ambitious album, Aosoth have now returned with V: The Inside Scriptures. Main project of BST and second project of MkM of Antaeus, the band remained a two-piece until they were joined by INRVI of VI for their third album III: Violence and Variations. Violence and Variations marks a period of transition for the band as it bridges the gap between Aosoth's early work and IV: An Arrow in Heart, their most acclaimed album to date.
An Arrow in Heart saw the band bring forth their most defining effort as they fused a nocturnal, psychedelic atmosphere with their dissonant and unrelenting style of orthodox black metal. Featuring some of the longest material the band has ever written, An Arrow in Heart constitutes a challenging piece of art that thoroughly explores each of its patterns, making it simultaneously mesmerizing and visceral but also self-indulgent.
On The Inside Scriptures Aosoth have addressed that point as they come out with a more compact album that marries the concentrated intensity of III with the sophistication of IV. It is evident that Aosoth are certain of their qualities and know how to play to their strengths.
As usual most of the work on the album was split between BST and MkM with BST in charge of composing and producing the music and MkM on vocals, lyrics and visual matters. Unlike previous albums on which BST usually wrote the songs in one take he now submitted them to more scrutiny. As a result the songwriting on The Inside Scriptures is noticeably more varied yet it does retain some of the repetitive, explorative nature of the band's previous album.
The drums, however, weren't programmed by BST this time around and were instead supplied by a session drummer going by the name of T. who delivers a stunningly precise performance, at once firmly rooted in classic black metal yet also with an ambitious and technical edge.
Similarly, MkM's work on The Inside Scriptures constitutes his most passionate performance to date. Reaching into higher registers more often, his screams now add a special touch to the songs.
Despite all that certain elements that made Aosoth's previous album so outstanding unfortunately didn't make the cut this time as INRVI's bass-play falls prey to the mix. Whereas the bass on An Arrow in Heart had a very rich and well-rounded sound and a distinct presence, it now takes some attentive listening to make it out in the mix.
Overall, The Inside Scriptures features a dirtier mix that contrasts the clear-cut but very well balanced An Arrow in Heart. The guitars and drums are the least effected by these changes and even though I personally liked the sharper, more disturbing guitars on the previous album, the sound of The Inside Scriptures is not to be scoffed at. There is an ominous uneasiness that lurks in the music on this album and it couldn't be done without this mix.
Be it the infernal, roaring guitars on Her Feet Upon the Ground, Blooming the Fruits of Blood, the murky atmosphere of the title track or the heavy and groovy A Heart to Judge, Aosoth cover a lot of ground on The Inside Scriptures. To further structure and embellish the album, the band deploys bells, gongs, synths and samples to craft short dark ambient segments that connect the songs.
With The Inside Scriptures Aosoth once more delivered an album that is as much true black metal as it is a genuine work of art and self-expression. The diverse yet distinctly coherent bundle of songs on this album makes for an impressive and memorable listen that is certain to make its way into many top lists of this year. Mine included.
Considering that the bandcamp page for The Inside Scriptures calls this album "a closing chapter of Aosoth's musical and lyrical concept", the band's next effort will be an even more pivotal one, assuming that it happens.
What the future of the project really looks like, only the bandmembers know, but at least for now Aosoth have once more shown themselves to be among the leaders of the french black metal scene.