Avichi: Catharsis Absolute

One-man US black metal outfit seeks out the middle path

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Creating black metal in America seems to come with a lot of hang-ups these days. You’re either part of the new USBM movement, and positioning yourselves somehow after the fact, or you go self-consciously backwards, and declare yourselves ‘old school’.

One-man outfit Avichi nicely bridges that gap, never more so than on this album. Bookended by two pieces of piano – an often effective format for the extreme metal album, of course, but here not entirely necessary – the main tracks that make up the album are both traditional in their approach to second-wave BM, but also surprisingly inspired.

Dynamic in both emotion and composition, the material is at times almost joyous in its stirring drive, at other times melancholic, yet without ever becoming overtly bleak or depressive. The percussion is functional, but the guitar work is invigorating without ever attempting to reinvent the wheel. Where other bands in the genre slip into what might be described as ‘groove’ when using melody within a strictly black template, the tasteful touches of piano and memorable hooks here instead remain stark and angular.