ALGHAZANTH: Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity/Promo ’97
Release year: 1999/2019
Label: Woodcut Records
Alghazanth were one of the countless Finnish black metal groups who crawled out from the woodwork during the mid-to-late nineties to offer their take on the genre. During their 20+ year journey, which came to an end in 2018, Alghazanth released numerous albums but for one reason or another never really found their place in the pantheon on Finnish black metal. Perhaps one reason is that their approach always differed from the typical Finnish sound pioneered and spearheaded by acts such as Satanic Warmaster.
Alghazanth’s debut album has been rather hard to find for a number of years already, much to my chagrin. I used to own the original, but for some silly reason sold or traded it away and regretted later. Luckily, with the album celebrating its 20th anniversary, Woodcut Records re-released it with new cover artwork and with the group’s third and final demo as bonus.
Early Alghazanth had certainly listened to and digested the synth-driven and symphonic black metal of the mid-90’s. Not so much Cradle Of Filth, but there are certainly echoes of early Dimmu Borgir and other similar acts from Norway – and fellow Finnish purveyors of a more symphonic, majestic style. The similarities may not be too striking, but I think one could safely venture a guess that Alghazanth drew from the same wells of inspiration as, say, Unhola for their Minä Olen Tie -demo, or Thyrane. Incidentally, Blastmor of Thyrane guests on one of the tracks on Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity.
Alghazanth don’t copy any one artist per se on their debut, but the music is to a large extent built one tropes of late 90’s synth-sympho-black, and as such feels quite familiar from the go. But whilst Alghazanth don’t offer up anything spectacularly original on their debut, at least their take on melodic, symphonic black metal was quite solid. Revisiting this album now, 20 years later, few of the tracks stand out in particular in either good or bad, but as a whole, Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity is a nice trip down memory lane. I have no idea how people discovering this album now experience it.
Soundwise, the production is clear but definitely lacks in any kind of aggression. The omnipresent synths bring their own contribution to the overall softening of the sound, but even without them, there’s not much of an edge to the buzzing guitars. And bass? Barely present.
The new artwork fails to impress. The original had a pretty crude and cliché photoshopped stock photo of wolves on the cover, but sadly the new artwork is even worse. It’s a veritable collection of Moon Moon’s feasting on the flesh of Christ here. The tracks from Promo ’97 don’t bring much added value to the album, but don’t make it worse either – it just makes the CD three tracks longer. Two of the tracks appear on the album proper, and as such offer an insight into the maturation Alghazanth went through between 1997 and 1999: apart from the worse and even softer sound, Big A sounded quite ready in ’97 already.
It would be erroneous to call Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity a lost or overlooked gem of late 90’s Finnish black metal because, quite frankly, it’s too generic to be that. What it is, however, is an interesting and somewhat overlooked window back in time on what Finnish black metal was like then, before the “recognized” Finnish sound established itself. And though it is very obviously and very much a child of its time, it’s also not half bad at all.