One of the more noteworthy events in the Scottish black-metal scene of late is the revival of one-man project Askival. Taugh, the man behind the project, initially discarded it in 2009, stating a lack of inspiration, but has recently restarted the project and indeed left the other outfit which he was involved in, Falloch, with the intention of focusing on Askival. "Eternity" is so far the only album which Askival have released, but is widely regarded as a splendid debut.
Askival is, seemingly, in a similar group to bands such as Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth - steeped in the theme of Pagan myth and aesthetic. Askival has, of course, a more Celtic, Scottish, and occasionally Norse aspect to it's sound, but nonetheless holds a reasonable amount of common ground with such bands. The album contains as many moments of folk as it does of black-metal, with many lengthy clean sections which, along with several ambient sections, grant variety from the fury which the bands sound can produce, such as the intense riff-work present in the heavier sections of "Last March of the White Wolves". These heavier sections never compromise the proudly Scottish, folk-laced nature of the music however, and folk-instruments and styles are present throughout, and are at all times sincere. Much like the work of Falloch, the traditional instruments are never, ever cheesy, instead being gorgeously vast, epic and at times almost ethereal in their atmosphere, and thoroughly spine-tingling time after time. The scale of the soundscape is matched by the scale of the songs on the album - massive, generally over-ten-minute chunks of epicness are divided by smaller tracks. It's good to see an album which is so clearly well-planned in this area, and the order of the music really made the album feel complete and digestible - it caters towards listening to the whole thing, which, really, is what an album is supposed to do.
One observation about Askival's sound which pleases me is the consistency of the atmosphere - the songs themselves are varied, from clean guitar to black-metal to ambient, but in all of these, the atmosphere remains the same. Not unexcitingly, that is - the sound may be constant, but is works excellently, with the whole album feeling tied-together and complete, but still diverse enough to be exciting to listen to, which it certainly is. When I say diverse, too, I may overuse the term, but in Askival, I'm fairly certain I'm correct. There is a lot going on - easily three or four different approaches to each instrument used, with chanted vocals, harsh vocals, clean vocals, and as much variety in every other aspect, which makes the consistency of the album even more impressive, and opens many doors for the album to be enjoyable. The procuction is really nice too - everything is just there. It sounds more or less perfect. The programmed drums are odd in some places, but other than that, the production job is impressive.
I really can't find anything to fault about the album. I'm usually a bit weary of handing out really high ratings for albums unless I feel genuinely blown-away by them. Frankly, that's what Askival does. I've always hugely enjoyed black-metal of this style, and I've always enjoyed Scottish folk a great deal. Combining the two is excellent indeed, and when you include the Norse elements, well, I love it.
This is a 9/10.
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