Most of the one-man black metal projects these days play slower, depressive stuff, which even if it’s good isn’t that impressive from a technical standpoint. Hungarian project Aetherius Obscuritas, on the other hand, has been writing dynamic, progressive black metal for several years, and while his project’s most recent album Black Medicine / Fekete Orvosság suffers from a lack of focus, it certainly shows no lack of talent and creativity.
Most of Black Medicine can best be described as melodic black metal, although there are some progressive influences present as well. Frontman Arkhorrl throws in a great deal of counter-melody and interplay between the different instruments, but somehow not much of it seems to latch on. I’m also beginning to think that mixing progressive riffing with black metal is hardly ever a good idea; here the calculated style of the progressive riffs just doesn’t mix very well with the atmospheric nature of more traditional black metal riffing, and it just ends up sounding out of place. The crystal-clear production doesn’t really help with this either. It’s like the aggressive, technical side of things and the melodic elements work against one another, which really keeps either aspect of Aetherius Obscuritas’s sound from establishing itself fully.
The two cover songs are a rather strange touch. I’m not a fan of inserting cover songs anywhere other than at the end of an album, although admittedly the Marduk cover ‘The Black Tormentor of Satan’ doesn’t really sound too far off from Aetherius Obscuritas’s actual songs. The other cover is ‘Black Demon’ by Running Wild, which to me seemed like an odd choice. It’s also erroneously listed as being a Marduk cover in various places on the internet, which confused the hell out of me at first.
Comparing the cover version to Marduk’s original recording is rather illustrative of this album’s flaws. Marduk’s version is uglier and the sound is dominated by the drums and vocals, whereas the version on this album is much more evenly produced and sounds somewhat flat in comparison. Obviously not too many bands are going to live up to Marduk’s recordings, and the cover version is certainly competent, but Aetherius Obscuritas’s sound on this album just doesn’t seem built to convey the same kind of audio havoc that one would find on a Marduk record.
That’s not to say there aren’t some bright spots on Black Medicine. Several of the tracks contain some pretty good riffs, especially when Arkhorrl decides to stick to a medium tempo and allow his guitar melodies to carry the song. The intro to ‘Fagyos Ölelés / Freezing Embrace’ and the latter portion of ‘The Moon Shield’ are a couple examples of where the album really shines; I’d be interested in what the outcome would be if Aetherius Obscuritas focused more on this style.