Sent in a trade for free I had no expectations for Aetherius Obscuritus' album Ventus. I had figured that it would be another bland and boring black metal disc. I guess it was sent as a promo from Paragon Records along with a few others. Either way, Hungarian black metal - and metal in general - is far from being on the top of everyone's list as far as top-tier artists go. The only band that I ever think of when the nation is mentioned is the impressive Sear Bliss - which likely have influenced the leads and melodies on Ventus - and after doing some digging I turn up projects such as Gabor Varga's Dusk and Marblebog which skipped my mind initially. I'm sure there are many other great bands out of the country but it comes to show that some distances are difficult to traverse even in an age where a search box can bring up a list of every band a country has to offer. For a local comparison, the band sounds a lot like Immolith. Especially Immolith on their first two Demos.
The disc is typical fare. The cover employs a hag carrying a faggot of branches through a misty landscape - an image used on album covers ranging from Zeppelin IV through to variants such as on Drudkh's Blood in our Wells. Unfortunately there is no real booklet to the release, just one double sided page. Perhaps they felt that a booklet wouldn't fit in the CD case due to the bulging muscles of Arkhorrl. And I thought that Primal Fear's Ralf Scheepers was huge! Arkhorrl looks like he just destroyed the entire Hungarian 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medal water polo teams before sprinting to the local truck pulling competition all before lunch. I can't make this stuff up. I think the only reason that Zson is in the band is so that Arkhorrl has someone to bench press.
Musically the release is quite accomplished though. Most of the material is credited to Arkhorrl who performs all instruments but the drums which his thighs and triceps don't fit behind. Although Ventus does drop off after the sixth track, there is enough variety on the album to make it a worthwhile listen for Black Metal fans who like a more melodic leaning. Immediately noticeable from a track such as opener "Cold Fire" is the highly precise tremolo riffs that emphasize well thought out melodies. "The Resting Might" is memorable for it's plodding drum beat and energetic screams and for a chorus which sounds like it could be a theme from Mario 64. The highlights are often leads and overlapped melodies which, as noted earlier, would sound at home on Sear Bliss' "The Haunting." "I Stay" has some slower parts which break up the quick pacing of the earlier tracks as well.
The songs here are all quite short which truncates some moments that really deserved to be expanded upon. Noticeable would be the lead near the end of "Cold Fire" which starts with a great amount of finesse but twinkles out way too fast or the ending to "Meg Az Elet Elott" which sounds as if it is about to step into a wonderful sweeping movement. The details in "Doctor Ox's Experiment" as well as what feels to be a full solo and it's a great display in what is my second favorite track on the album. I really like the drum sound on the album too. It sounds natural and honest even when Zson doesn't exactly land a beat perfectly on time. Honest performances should not be zealously replaced and Aetherius Obscuritas leave breathing room for subtleties. Also, I don't know what is so "bonus" about bonus track "Hideg Tuz." It's the same as "Cold Fire." Are the lyrics in Hungarian while the original track is in English? I don't know.
In many ways Ventus reminds me of Countess' better moments, especially in regards to melodies. Although I doubt Orlok would regard this as Orthodox Black Metal, I do. There is an obvious influence from traditional metal such as in the inclusion of leads and solos as theatrical moments and the focus on songwriting is very much a throwback to NWOBHM. Aetherius Obscuritas take it a bit further by incorporating elements from Norwegian Black Metal such as the tremolo guitar riffs, Arkhorrl's scratchy vocals - a component which I laugh when I imagine him producing them - and the drumming style. I really thought this was a good release. If Arkhorrl is interested, I'd like to hire him as my personal trainer if he doesn't buy a plane ticket and come attack me viciously due to my incessant ragging on his superbuilt chassis first.