Photo Courtesy of Prosthetic Records
Last year, Toledo trio Astralborne self-released its hour-long debut album, Eternity’s End. But now, the hearty LP — forged by two members of the Viking metal band Hammer Horde and Paul Fuzinski from Blood of the Prophets — has been re-released by Prosthetic Records, widening the reach of the Ohio band’s melodic death metal sound.
Overlooking the expected electric guitar riffs and guttural vocals one would expect from a death metal record, what’s most pleasantly surprising about Eternity’s End is its use of acoustic instruments. Both the opening and closing songs, which act as album bookends, feature an acoustic guitar as the lead accompanied by swelling background chords. A cello also makes welcome appearances on the epic 12-minute title track and the song “Architect of Suffering,” the latter adding a small dose of piano, as well. The brief respites these instruments offer from the surplus of blast beats and shredding makes Eternity’s End more dynamic than the average melodeath release.
As for electric contributions, Derik Smith’s layered guitar playing and Fuzinski’s growled vocals stand out as the driving forces of Eternity’s End. Although drummer Jayson Cessna’s double bass rhythms provide a strong foundation and even shine on songs such as the title track, the melodic elements on this record take center stage. Smith’s breakneck clawing on the single “Transcendence of Flesh” and subtle riff around the three minute mark of “The Obliterators” create memorable moments that expand upon the genre’s standard mold.
Thematically, however, the album doesn’t stray from the usual subject of metal music, namely mortality and the nature of the world. Fuzinski’s lyrics ponder celestial rebirth in places such as the chorus “Transcendence of Flesh,” where, bolstered by Smith’s guitar, he sings “Voice of a soul/Reborn in by fire/Decode and decipher the language of stars.” Later, on the paradoxically-named title track, he remains “watching and waiting for the end of eternity” when he can finally “break free from these chains” and achieve the post-human form he seems to seek throughout the album as an ultimate goal.
Unfortunately, while Fuzinski’s vocals are impactful and discernible, his bass playing is buried so far down in the mix that it seldom comes to the surface with exceptions on songs such as the groove metal changeup “Centuries (In Agony)” and the instrumental showcase of “Inglorious 20XX.” Additional low end would have given even more oomph to these 11 tracks, but it’s absence doesn’t cause any major problems.
Astralborne, by carefully mapping out every riff, drumbeat and lyric, manages to craft a debut that shows musical and conceptual ambitions, separating Eternity’s End from death metal albums that simply rest on being brutal and dense. If the Ohio trio continue to put the same amount of care and effort into its future releases, they will certainly attract listeners who seek out heavy metal that’s elevated beyond its traditional form.