Aenaon is a Greek word that means “inexhaustible, indestructible, durable.” Aenaon is also a Greek progressive metal band formed in 2005 who, through several demos and split releases, an EP and two full-length albums, seem to be as durable and indestructible as their name implies. Now, two years after their last album, EXTANCE (and a year after a 7” split with Virus of Koch), the group tests their durability with HYPNOSOPHY, a record that stretches the boundaries of traditional black metal, veering toward an experimental sound that is every bit as groundbreaking in its scope as IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING was to psychedelic music in 1969. The band seems to evolve – as any good band should – with each new record; I can draw a fairly reliable line to two events in the career of Aenaon that sparked this evolution: The return of a former creative spark, guitarist Achilleas Kalantzis in 2009 and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Nycriz joining in 2012. Lyricist/vocalist Astrous, Achilleas and the adventurous Nycriz have redefined metal music for the 2010s by introducing elements of the early free-form Jazz movement alongside liberal doses of their cultural heritage, via traditional Greek Folk music and instrumentation.

Aenaon (Achilleas Kalantzis, Orestis Zyrinis, Nycriz, Astrous) (photo credit: EVI SAVVA)

The album kicks off with “Oneirodynia,” a song that’s highly operatic in scope; there’s just something inherently unsettling about throat-ripping blackened vocals supported by a Wagnerian chorus. Equally damaging to the psyche are the dark, Jazz-like saxophone skronks – as an unlikely lead and solo instrument – supplied by the group’s newest member, Orestis Zyrinis. We are definitely off to a great start! Staccato guitar riffs, thumping, pumping bass and a massive drum assault introduce “Fire Walk With Me” before some imaginative – dare I say, “progressive” – guitar/keyboard interplay, via Achilleas and fellow guitarist, Anax (John Memos), takes center stage. The use of both Astrous’ harsh vocals (which are a wicked cross between Venom’s Cronos and King Diamond) and the clean vocals of guest, Giorgos Papagiannakis (Memos’ Absinthiana bandmate), along with blistering speed metal-like guitar solo, infuses a bit of the psychotic into the number and plays very well into the genre-bending sound of HYPNOSOPHY. “Earth Tomb,” for me, is a step back; not quite up to par with the record’s two opening salvos. The tune is features a rather repetitive operatic type of groove with a harsh spoken word section that does absolutely nothing for me (or the song itself, actually). I’m not saying that the song is devoid of any redeeming features; highlights include a moody guitar solo in the break, as well as the return of Orestis’ inventive sax work. I guess what I’m saying is that the thing isn’t horrible, just not great. Okay, so… next track, same as the last… sorta. With the vocals of Astrous sounding more ominous amid the slower groove and the voice of guest Sofia Sarri taking the lead, “Void” actually grows on you before the tune ends. In fact, the song – with its somber, vaguely Middle Eastern vibe – is far better than I had originally anticipated it to be a minute or so in. Yeah… okay, this one is a keeper.

Tunnel” kicks off the second half of the record. While further expanding the definition of the term, the number maintains an old school trash sound, with lightning fast guitar and sax (!) parts. Papagiannakis’ vocals have an odd Axl Rose quality that is not unappealing, while the drumming is powerful and jackhammer-fast; even the slower keyboard/sax break is cool – in a strange kinda Bowie or Foreigner way. I really like the dichotomy of sounds and styles on this one. “Thus Ocean Swells” is more of a straight-on slice of operatic metal with a heavy King Crimson progressive vibe. The clean vocals work exceptionally well in this context, while the harsher vocals seem woefully out of place; instrumentally, however, horns, keys and guitars all swirl around in a magnificent rush of Crimsonesque grandeur. The album closer (and magnum opus), a couplet of “Phronesis” and “Psychomagic” absolutely screams early ‘70s prog-rock excess – which I’m definitely a fan of, by the way – right from the song title(s) and fifteen-minute-plus length. A stick-in-your-brain guitar riff, powerful bass, awesome (not overly busy) drumming and Mel Collins-like sax runs inform the cool three-and-a-half-minute intro, as Nycriz’s drums pick up the pace around the five miute mark. Whereas Astrous’ harsh vocals seemed out of place on “Thus Ocean Swells,” here, his stage-whispered lyrics sound more at home, more demonic and ominous. A fitting way to close out a really solid record. It’s easy to create an album of heavy metal music in 2016, it’s a little harder to mine your own metal vein and develop a sub-genre in your own image; Aenaon has subverted the scene, reinvented the wheel and lain the fruit of their labors at the feet of those of us looking for a little more range within the realm of heavy music.


(UDR MUSIC; 2014)


Slayer fans, rejoice. The band’s former master of all things percussive, Dave Lomabardo, is back with his trio, Philm, and their second full-length, FIRE FROM THE EVENING SUN. The album features touches of that old Slayer venom and the speed of their early thrashing metal and, of course, the thunderous sound of Dave’s muscular, yet tasty drumming. The album is, while not a complete departure, certainly diverse enough to satisfy both Slayer and non-Slayer fans alike.

Philm (Dave Lombardo, Gerry Nestlet, Poncho Tomaselli) (uncredited photo)

Philm (Dave Lombardo, Gerry Nestlet, Poncho Tomaselli) (uncredited photo)

The album starts with “Train,” a chugging, pounding blues number with a memorable riff and suitably dark, menacing vocals. The song has a classic, threatening rock groove and, what else would you expect from Dave Lombardo? The thunderous “Fire From the Evening Sun” is next, with a swinging, near nursery rhyme sing-song vocal from guitarist Gerry Nestler, who also offers a super-fast solo, augmented by Poncho Tomaselli’s swooping bass line and a near-martial drum beat. There’s also a great hardcore breakdown toward the end of the tune. “Lady of the Lake” is an ARABIAN NIGHTS horror dream with awesome descending bass and guitar parts. Nestler offers another exemplary, stinging solo; Lomabardo’s drumming is a bit more subdued than his usual stormtrooper attack. A doom-laden “Lion’s Pit” is a Sabbathy bone crusher with vocals that somehow reminds me of “This Jesus Must Die” from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. It’s creepy and heavy and altogether cool.

Silver Queen” is a heavy blues, evoking Leslie West’s Mountain. It features an unforgettable, thudding riff and a cool, sloppy Nestler solo. The next track, “We Sail At Dawn,” has a kinda restrained groove with a creepy, snaky guitar riff and an equally creepy vocal. “Omnisience” is sort of a heavier version of very early Killing Joke… at least until the fleet-fingered fretting that comes in at the end of the song. At less then two minutes, “Fanboy” is over almost before it gets started. The track is a twangy surf kinda thing that turns into a lightning fast thrash kinda thing. Woulda been cool if it lasted a bit longer and came back around to the beginning.

Philm's Dave Lombardo at work (uncredited photo)

Philm’s Dave Lombardo at work (uncredited photo)

Luxhaven” has an odd Devo meets Dead Kennedys syncopation going on. With a spongy bass sound from Tomaselli and Nestler’s sore throat inducing vocals, the tune is very weird and very listenable. Up next, “Blue Dragon” is another – by now, patented – quirky stab at heavy. Again, the vocals are just a bit unsettling. I like that! “Turn In the Sky” sounds almost orchestral, with minimalist guitar washes and dexterous bass playing. The track features some of the album’s most powerful drumming from Lombardo. The final cut, “Corner Girl,” is a strange Hawaiian-cum-Vaudvillian thing featuring a slightly out-of-tune piano part and a nice nylon string acoustic bass figure. The song eventually turns into an even stranger calypso number, complete with a trumpet solo (by guest Sal Cracchiolo) before returning to its original languid feel. As mentioned above, FIRE FROM THE EVENING STAR has enough of the heavy, thrash stuff to keep the Slayer fans happy and enough quirkiness to intrigue everybody else.