Taking the spooky-sounding word ‘apocrypha’ and giving it a little tweak, the New Jersey duo of Justin Buell and Pete Colucci became known as Apocrophex in early 2013 and released their initial recording, the Wheels Within Wheels EP (Manicidic) in 2014. Their full-length debut Suspended From the Cosmic Altaar (Manicidic) followed in 2015, and the pair recently recruited French session drummer Kévin Paradis (Benighted, ex-Svart Crown) to work on their new, independently released, album, Æternalis.
With Buell handling the instrumentation side of things while Colucci deals with the lyrics and vocals, the band continues along their darkly mystic and cosmically themed path, casually battering it into oblivion with each new release.
Opening with ‘Where Temples Are Older than Trees’, this latest foray into sinister sounding Technical Death Metal begins in a slow, crushing fashion with slashing chords and a fast-paced, pneumatic double kick drum. ‘Implanted Genesis’ switches between guttural death metal roars, and mournful Celtic Frost style clean vocals, and the brooding ‘Thwarting Dogma’ features a slow and jazzy section as well as all the usual heavy riffing and jangling chords.
‘The Oracle Room’ keeps things ticking along nicely, while the excellent ‘Sovereign Symbol’ features some quality bass work and is arguably the best track on the album. ‘Pareidolia’ is Apocrophex going full sci-fi, helped largely by an electrolarynx vocal which makes Colucci sound like Charlie, the unfortunate cop from from cult Aussie film Mad Max who takes a saucepan to the throat during the opening car chase.
‘A Sentient Edifice’ is slow and grinding, yet brutally fast, containing some suitably off-kilter rhythms, while closer ‘Neglected Megalith’ sounds like a combination of everything in the band’s arsenal, but with some Bowie-esque vocals added for good measure.
Packed with dissonant tones and a sinister, virtually Black Metal atmosphere in places, Æternalis is expertly played, but the best moments on the album only seem to arrive when the band take a break from the almost relentless pneumatic drumming and explore the more eclectic aspects of their sound.
As a result, certain songs fail to really stamp themselves into the consciousness with any real authority, and although not distractingly so, the production seems to fall a little flat in places. Other than those fairly minor grumbles though, as Æternalis is still well worth checking out.