French black metal outfit, Aosoth, is back with a fourth album, and IV: An Arrow in Heart is more or less a culmination of ideas that, although executed well, feel a little stale, feel a little tired, feel a little forgotten. And as one really sinks further and further into its palette of offerings, they find that it’s not really all that worthwhile. Lines begin to blur and everything becomes a little hazy. IV: An Arrow in Heart ultimately boasts some forgotten Immolation riffs, a penchant for deep grooves and a whole lot’a fuzz.
Not fuzz in a traditional black metal sense, Aosoth’s production here is deep, clear and well-mastered, sounding full and able-bodied, but ‘fuzz’ as in most of the music presented within the album’s seven tracks seems to slip between the cracks, and the music still lies unclear even after several attentive listens. Where the album shines, it really sinks its claws in, takes hold and gives the listener all it’s got, but then there’s the rest of the album, the fuzzy in-between bits that I can’t seem to really recall, nor had I seem to have cared for at the time. As it all blends into a black daze of tremolos and blast beats, I’m not sucked into any atmospheres or ensnared by any deep, mesmerising passages of stunning musicianship. I’m rather bored, actually. The riffs are there, and they’re good for what they are, but it’s not like nobody’s heard this before, and this isn’t fooling me. And there are those other times, those times the music promises one of those unique and fantastical sections of the band’s true capability, but it’s all too quickly taken away for more or the same repetitiveness.
But don’t take this as though it’s bad, the music is great, even terrific at a lot of times, but it seems those moments of real quality seem to lessen the standard by which I view the album’s whole, and it deters me from slugging through the album just to experience the great bits again. It’s really when the band starts blurring the lines between black metal and death metal that sweeps the listener up, when the band shies away from harrowing wails and walls of percussion to give way to Immolation-esque riffs and experimental tendencies of groove, sonorous percussion and a fuller understanding of how to produce naturally resonating jams that engross the listener. Tracks like ‘One With the Prince With a Thousand Enemies’, ‘Under Nails & Fingertips’ and ‘Broken Dialogue 1’ teeter on by without a second’s thought, whereas tracks like ‘Temple of Knowledge’ have a tumultuous quality about them, taking advantage of the band’s capabilities; founded on contextual juxtapositions in which riffs are hung on to, but the music behind the dissonant riffing builds, slows, crashes, grinds and flows unimaginable well until it all breaks down into slick bass and tribal broodings.
And while ‘Broken Dialogue 1’ sounds like a failed attempt at atmosphere, ‘Broken Dialogue 2’ follows suit, yet employs powerful atmospheres and feels like a brother song to Ulcerate, or Deathspell Omega with its dizzying harmonic guitar work. Where ‘One With the Prince With a Thousand Enemies’ is mostly droll, it has a couple of key moments, most notably the beginning of the song with an incredible drum fill and an undeniably infectious rhythm. The final song on the album ‘Ritual Marks of Penitence’ takes light of the band’s doomier aspects with a slower roll of riffs and a memorable drum-intro. And even though the drums are programmed, it only feels like it’s a problem on this final track. As on the rest of the album the drums sound natural and enjoyable, despite how well written they are here, the drums can sound a bit too “clicky” and are a small detriment to the overall quality of ‘Ritual Marks of Penitence’.
All in all, IV: An Arrow in Heart feels like a mixed bag, it’s an enjoyable ride and from the get go of the title track, it’s an engaging, but when it drags, it drags a little too much. It’s derivative, but it’s done well. So as stale, tired and easily forgettable some of the album may be, it more than makes up for it with a collection of truly classic moments and a few worthwhile tracks.