With my love for hellenic black metal rekindled by the excellent Magnus Venator by Katavasia that came out last year, I was very excited when I learned who are the masterminds behind Yoth Iria, a Greek black metal band that releases its debut LP As The Flame Withers this January: none other than Greek black metal veterans Jim Mutilator (founding member and first bassist of Rotting Christ, also first bassist of Varathron) and The Magus (producer, composer and lyricist whose contributions and collaborations include Rotting Christ, Thou Art Lord, Diabolos Rising, NAOS, Raism, Principiality of Hell and more). In Yoth Iria, the tasks are distributed as follows: The Magus on vocals, Jim Mutilator on bass, George Emmanuel (session musician) on guitars, J.V. Maelstrom (session musician) on drums and John Patsouris on keys.
Now, just having a few names of former glory in your roster does not a good super group make – as many bad or mediocre projects in metal history have shown. But fortunately, as with Katavasia, Yoth Iria seem to be the exception to the rule – As The Flame Withers is an impressive showing of talent, effort and most importantly, managing to make the sum of a project greater than its individual parts.
The Great Hunter mixes a fast oldschool riff, some slow Rotting Christ -like grooves and great atmosphere. Yoth Iria is of slower pace alltogether, and mixes reverb-laden guitar leads with subtle synths and revels in the dark and moody sound. Hermetic Code takes a turn towards the heroic and could harbor one of the best chorus that Abbath never wrote for his best project to date, I. Trve catchyness. Then it’s time for foreboding darkness in the intro of The Mantis, complete with an evil sounding brass section, before the song turns into another groove monster with a catchy chorus. The Red Crown Turns Black is the first time we get into real blast-beat-and-tremolo-picking territory, but as soon as the most used of all the black metal ingredients shows it face, it’s already complemented again with epic guitar melodies and black’n’roll riffs. Unborn, Undead, Eternal is a beautiful track that would fit perfectly on my favourite Rotting Christ album, Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού. If you ever listened to that record and remember tracks like Ahura Mazdā-Aŋra Mainiuu or In Yumen – Xibalba, you know what I am talking about. Tyrants is made of similar stuff, while album closer The Luciferian takes a turn towards the dramatic and operatic. While not bad, it did stick the least with me, as not much is happening, and it is easily the weakest track on this otherwise great record.
In short, this record is pretty awesome. It mixes influences from the best of my favourite era of Rotting Christ with black’n’roll elements that could be from the time the best material Abbath ever created was released, and here and there you hear synths in the background that will make you swear that a certain crazy person that once recorded Burzum’s Filosofem contributed them. Most importantly, As The Flame Withers does not sound like a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas thrown together on a whim, all the styles are blended beautifully and sound original, like they came from one creative wellspring. I really dig Yoth Iria’s debut LP and hope there will be more to come. What a great time for hellenic black metal!