Astarium is the solo-outfit of Nikolay ‘SiN’ Sikeritsky, who also runs NitroAtmosfericum Records. I wrote several reviews in the past for Concreteweb about Astarium (as well as for NitroAtmosfericum Records), and as you can see (enter the band’s name in ‘search’ or go to ‘reviews sorted by artist’), I deeply like the refreshing approach of this act. In more than ten years of existence in meantime, SiN wrote and recorded many hands full of releases, including several splits and many full-length studio albums. Drum-Ghoul is the sixth (or seventh?) full album, written and recorded in Autumn 2015 at the SH Studio. The result consists of four lengthy compositions (total running time: 46:48), which get released on CD (jewel case with eight-page booklet) in an edition of 500 copies. Releasing / distributing duties are done by Symbol Of Domination Productions (a division of Russia’s Satanath Records) and More Hate Productions (not the first time that both labels join forces).
Oh yes, just for your information, but the textual side has been inspired by the fiction novel The Slitherer From The Slime. It’s a happy love story (hehe) by Lin V. Carter and Dave Foley, who do also operate under the nickname is H.P. Lowcraft – does it ring a bell? They also wrote about the Cthulhu mythology, so you might have a clue of the lyrical influence, I might hope… In that short story, Drumgool is the name of the castle where this horror story takes place, and that’s where this album’s title is taken from…The cover artwork by Alex Zubovsky clearly represents that theme.
Hill Of Scape-Gallows opens with a howling wind and ominous thunder, and a great interplay of haunting, repetitive guitar leads, ghastly keyboards, pounding bass lines and some more elements left and right. This is a concept that interacts and continues, surprisingly entertaining despite the heavy obscurity behind it. Slowly but convinced, this opening track evolves, and after about four minutes, everything gets somewhat grimmer. Melodious patterns, gloomy synths and those characteristic vocals of SiN create a full, overwhelming pallet of morbid, mystic, mysterious and magic elegance. The symphonic Black Metal is not that overwhelmingly intense, yet still quite orchestral and bombastic, yet with a mesmerizing and haunting atmosphere rather than a cosmic or astral one. The focus lies on the hypnotic guitar leads especially, but it is like a total experience, which includes the floating keyboards lines, grim voices and the whole supportive rhythm section too. Sixteen opening minutes that show a unique creativity; Hill Of Scape-Gallows immediately sets the tone for a weird trip through scarifying dimensions…
The voice of SiN is, as mentioned before, quite special, little hoarse and soar, throaty and gurgling - not especially that scream-like which gets compared with Black Metal in general. I can imagine that some listeners might dislike it, but they are wrong, for it truly fits to the occult character of this project’s concept. It’s rather story-telling than performing separated fragments of a history, whether it deals with the rattling speeches or the rusty throaty screams.
Dead Asylum goes on in a comparable vein, but is remarkably faster and much more energetic. It reminds me a lot of the oldest spells by Norway’s Gehenna. Here too, tremolo riffing and majestic synths take the lead, but once again the total experience is much more than the sum of all individual elements. Fine within this song is the almost folkloric intermezzo, with sounds of storm included once again, introducing a second half that is at least as suffocating and oppressing as the first half of this composition.
Hospitality Of Demon is the most mainstream piece on Drum-Ghoul, but that’s not meant negative. It’s based on catchy structures, especially keyboard driven, with sounds from water drops (might seem nothing but an additional detail, yet it’s truly important to catch the whole concept). The second half is much faster, more intense and fierce, once again very varying in structure and speed.
Pernicious Elixir, finally, is injected with samples and sounds too. The presence of those has never been so prominent before, I guess. Anyway, this epic is truly slow, enormously bewitching and purely dreamlike in atmosphere. The repetitive lead guitar riffs come with a hypnotising ambience, and some of the keyboard pieces are just ultra-terrestrial. Pernicious Elixir is the most diversified and adventurous piece out of four, reaching anthemic proportions. It’s almost like a symphony of obscurity and transcendence, expletive and asphyxiating in a perverted, subtle manner…