'Penthos', the second full length release from UK progressive death outfit 'Ageless Oblivion', continues as a natural progression from their debut release 'Temples Of Transcendent Evolution'.
It has the sound and feel of the first release but at the same time takes a big step forward because as good as 'Temples Of Transcendent Evolution' was, and it was an excellent first release, 'Penthos' is even better.
The album has taken the best part of the last four years to come to fruition, involving a minor line-up change and the time spent in its careful creation is blindingly obvious.
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It's devastatingly intense, blackened and brutal from the opening guitar squeal that heralds the arrival of the first track, 'Wolf's Head' and that's even before even the harsh deep vocals kick in.
'Penthos' is also technically excellent from the construction to the delivery and there's a good balance between the melodic elements to make it catchy, while still maintaining that dense, oppressive and harsh heaviness, with a natural flow between all the elements making it such a fascinating and engaging listen.
It's also an amazingly complex album from the way all the elements have been tightly woven together making it a progressive album in the truest of senses. Across the release the vocals are great; harsh and broad ranging with great intonation, matching the high level of all the musicianship on this release, there are no weak links here.
I don't have a favourite track, I like them all but I do have little favourite chunks that stand out and stick in my mind; the warped edge to the sound on 'The Midas Throat' and on 'Glacial Blood' which is intensely blackened with a subtle groove, also the well integrated sound-scape that appears towards the later part in amongst a crushing mix of guitar and drum work on 'Furnace', a track that becomes more interesting as it progresses.
'Where Wasps Now Nest' is a huge monster at over twelve minutes long, it is distorted, doom rich with an extended build and vocals that rip through you, taking a full six minutes to reach its dark zenith before dropping away to a lamentation again. If you enjoy a dark, doom laden, progressive marathon, this is a track you will love.
A little after midway through the album there's a cleansing instrumental interlude in the shape of 'Submergence' but it's not some willowy reflective piece, it's haunting and builds to a pounding intensity with a sonic edge guaranteed to blast the cobwebs and debris from your ears.
The album ends with not just one title track but two; the doom steeped ' Penthos: Lament' and the equally doom rich and distorted 'Penthos: Omnipresent ' with its subtly sexy guitar segment midway, again, great builders, both becoming dark and brutal as they progress.
'Penthos' was produced by Chris Fielding (Napalm Death, Electric Wizard) and mixed by Hertz Studios (Behemoth, Decapitated). As superb as this release is, something tells me that Ageless Oblivion have yet more to offer and I look forward to that prospect but until then I am pretty content to continue to feast my ears on this excellent album.