ASKLEPIA hail from Russia and are a part of the depressive and melancholic branch of Black Metal. Well, already a glance at their second album title might give one a hint as regards their musical and lyrical leanings.
“Cold Of Solitude” starts with an ambient intro featuring cold synths evoking images of desolate fields, a rather trite one, yet suiting the concept pretty well. The atmosphere of despair is sustained also in the beginning of the first regular track that includes sounds of a pouring rain and water drops (I bet these are dripping on a bunch of lifeless autumn leaves or a puddle near a medieval church) plus some thunder murmurs. After a while, a procession of funereal, monotonous, yet somehow engaging riffs, starts its sluggish march through the wastelands of a Depressive Black Metal maniac’s soul and aural organs. The tempo here is turned up a bit for several moments so that any engaged listener can surely feel some chilly wind blows on his/her face. From time to time the band’s vocalist lets out a number of croaks, which could not suit this music more properly.
The general picture of “Cold Of Solitude” is very close to the above short description, which means that most of the material here relies on guitar walls and guitar-generated melody lines. Only occasionally a bigger role is played by the keyboard section like in the next to last song called “Golodnaja metel'”, which features nearly three minutes of ambient soundscapes accompanied by some acoustic motifs. This track is also the one that seems to include some of the most energetic moments here as right after the ambient atmosphere has vanished in the air, a relatively uplifting passage emerges in the form of some organic guitar riffs and rhythm section work reminding of a typical Rock/Hard Rock standard (however, do not expect any AC/DC here). The riffs appear first alone and after a few seconds they are accompanied by the bass and drums, which really shows how this section may affect the final outcome. The fragment does not sound strange at all, yet it might turn ones attention just like the closing tune “Otkrovenie Dozhdja” which entertains with a very nice clean and spatial solo passage (this one is actually far more unconventional for such moody Black Metal than the short Rock/Hard Rock-influenced fragment I have just mentioned).
Although there is nothing new in the music the Russian band proposes, its structure makes it an interesting and pretty enjoyable piece. The compositions might be placed somewhere between the Danish NORTH and the early Ukrainian RAVENTALE records, though, this is of course a pretty simplified statement. An important thing for me is that while listening to ASKLEPIA I do not start thinking immediately that its members are creating something trite or totally repetitive, which is a plus if one takes Black Metal into consideration.
As for the production, it is of course very rough and the most audible instruments are the guitars and the keyboard additions. Also the vocals (these vary, from the already-mentioned croaks to more brutal grunts like in the last chapter of Russians effort) are well mixed in the whole, though, it would not be a flaw if they were moved a bit backwards just to make them sound a bit more oppressed and thus coining an even more sorrowful atmosphere here. The bass can be detected as well and it bestows the compositions with some depth, which is not that obvious if one takes releases of this kind into account. At times, particularly in the faster moments, it would be beneficial if the percussion was more clear, perhaps apart from the bass drum, presence of which is easily noticeable throughout the whole work.
The second album from the Russian ensemble is unlikely to conquer the Metal world, yet its value is sufficient enough to please every fan of melancholic Black Metal. Solid and not without any promising outlooks for the future.
(Online June 17, 2010)