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Asofy : Percezione

Unusual, atypical, Asofy's very personal brand of Doom is full of fascinating shades.

Asofy are Italian, from the hinterlands around Milan - where so many hybrid-black experimental projects have spawned - and currently on the books with Roberto Mammarello's Avantgarde Music - he of MonumentuM fame, as well as having a fantastic eye for picking up esoteric, high-quality releases - and that, in itself, may already be enough information to see where this is heading.

As solo works under the band name, Tryfar (all instruments and music) released a 2001 debut ('ebYm') and 2007 EP follow-up ('Lento Procedere...'). In 2009 he joined up with Empio (vocals and lyrics): although since contributing to a split album ('Information/Noise', with Sleeping Village), 'Percezione' represents their first full-length work together. It's a conceptual piece, the sequence of tracks - Brightness, Saturation, Shadow, Darkness - recording the fall from grace of a demon specifically more prosaic and ordinary than Lucifer Morningstar. Befitting the less-than-High-Biblical sweep of the storyline, it's a somewhat subdued and melancholic affair: the aftermath of the 'war in heaven' for a bewildered foot-soldier from the trenches, if you like, cast down, but not from a position of pride or glory. Interestingly, though, Asofy do not consider the descent to be a wholly negative process - leading, as it does, to a new earthly paradigm - and this is reflected in the way the album picks up a certain amount of pace and impetus as it unfolds.

From a slow-building introduction that invites some musical comparison with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's early work, 'Percezione' swiftly sets out a raw, textural template founded on hypnotic, repetitive, slowly-evolving patterns blended in with outbursts of heavier, faster Black Metal-influenced aggression. Taken as a whole, the cycle begins and ends with doomier, dreamier tracks 'Luminosità' and 'Oscurità' enclosing the punchier, more dynamic 'Saturazione' and 'Ombra'. In between, what you will largely be listening to is guitar, comprehensively-programmed drums and vocals, each of which has a quite distinct character.

The guitars - including those supplied by guest musician Stefano de Ponti - are the backbone of the musical tapestry, omnipresent and working in shades that encompass plenty of reverb-heavy semi-acoustic melodies mixed in with distortion, dissonance and grinding riffs which nonetheless hangs together, overall, in a harmonically-balanced way. Behind them - or, often, mixed high and to the forefront - the drums are quite noticeable and cymbal-laden. I've only assumed they're programmed from the crisp, slightly-synthetic sound: if so, it's an impressive piece of work, as the variety on display could easily be the work of a real human sitting behind the kit. Finally, the vocals - in native Italian, and all the better for that (despite the need for Google Translate's assistance with the accompanying printed lyrics) - are an unusual combination of hoarse whispers, snarls and harshly tormented growling shrieks. Not only are they atypical of Death, Doom or Black harshness, but they often run counter to the underlying musical theme in a way that should sound hopelessly at odds but somehow fits in remarkably well.

Each track is a journey based around those three elements, all of them clocking in at over the ten-minute mark, which allows for plenty of expansion of the ambience and atmosphere of their themes. It is quite easy to get sucked into their hypnotic ebb and flow of building through relatively simplistic iterations and end up not really noticing the length - something that works really well on the gentle closing section of 'Luminosità', for example. The layered transitions, where the music shifts between its differing influences rather than blending them together, add a further level of interest to proceedings. Second track, 'Saturazione', is the only place where this formula falls a little flat: the main motifs are a little too grating and repetitive to attain the same degree of absorption, rendering it dull and overlong. Fortunately, it's immediately rescued by the screaming crescendos of 'Ombra', the most traditionally dynamic track of the album, before subsiding into the darkly mysterious mood and whispered horror-vocals of 'Oscurità'.

As you may be able to guess, I find this, on the whole, to be a quite fascinating experimental/hybrid work that defies any simple genre label (if I were to invent one it would probably have to be something like Post-Blackened/Ambient Doom...). It's been well thought-out and well-crafted, structured with some discipline, yet retaining a sense of Italian flair and theatricality. Significantly more instrumentally-inclined and atmospherically-slanted than most Black-influenced projects, it's stripped-down and skeletal enough to also defy any easy comparisons - most of which would be partial and misleading. It's simply esoteric, far off the beaten track, and well worth investigating.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Luminosità
2. Saturazione
3. Ombra
4. Oscurità

Duration : Approx. 48 minutes

Visit the Asofy bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-06-07 by Mike Liassides
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