Avichi – “Lightweaver” (Stereogum Premiere)
This article is about the Chicago-based black metal band Avichi. For other uses of the term, see Avicii.
Back in April, Profound Lore Records sent me an advance download of Catharsis Absolute, the third album from Avichi, aka Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski (Lord Mantis, ex-Nachtmystium). I had been a fan of Avichi’s 2011 sophomore album, The Devil’s Fractal, but on my first spin of Catharsis Absolute, I recognized it as a pretty serious step forward: It’s an elemental black metal album with recurring melodic and instrumental themes, vocals that alternate seamlessly between textured and harsh, epic choral backgrounds, and powerful performances at every station (all via Markuszewski), especially on guitar and piano. It’s a compelling, complete journey — an album that feels more like a novel than a collection of stories, although every chapter is full of exciting turns and satisfying climaxes. In April’s Black Market, I called it “my favorite black metal album of 2013.” As I noted in that space, “Catharsis Absolute will be released in July, but one of its tracks will be included here as soon as it surfaces online.”
In May, at the Baltimore metal festival Maryland Deathfest, Profound Lore chief Chris Bruni told me Catharsis Absolute had been put on hold — Markuszewski, a furious perfectionist, wasn’t happy with the final mix, and wouldn’t release the album to the public till he was satisfied with the product.
Through 2013, Bruni and I occasionally talked about Catharsis Absolute, but any progress made failed to meet Markuszewski’s standards. (Mind you, these were alterations to an album that I had already been blown away by in its less-than-perfect stages.) It may not have reached My Bloody Valentine levels of insanity, but for a small black metal album being released on a Canadian label run by one person, it was about as close to that as you’ll get.
Anyway, last week, Bruni sent me an email with a download link for Catharsis Absolute with a release date — January 21, 2014 — and a note: “I believe this is actually finally done!”
Listening to it now, it’s clear Markuszewski’s perfectionism paid dividends: This version of Catharsis Absolute sounds richer, fuller, more enveloping than the original; the precise instrumental details and choral vocals are clearly defined in my headphones, but the urgency, power, and roar aren’t pushed to the back. Presented like this, it reminds me very much of Bathory’s “viking metal” albums at points. I don’t know what 2014 will bring, but I do know that Catharsis Absolute is a hell of a way to kick off the new year.
So, as promised back in April, we’ve got one song from Catharsis Absolute for you to spin today, perhaps my favorite track on the album — certainly the catchiest, and the one that first announced to me that this was a pretty special record — “Lightweaver.” Listen.
FYI, the name Avichi is derived from this. The black metal Avichi predates the DJ Avicii by three years. On a positive note, I imagine Avichi’s Spotify royalties have seen a spike due to EDM fans misspelling the name in the search field.
Catharsis Absolute is out 1/21 via Profound Lore.