If all that was known about Asthâghul, the French musician behind experimental black metal act Esoctrilihum, was the sheer volume of his elaborate and intricately crafted output, it would still tell you a lot. As it goes, there’s really not a whole lot that he’s made public beyond that, his music shrouded in the mystery of his evocative and otherworldly sonic creations. That alone isn’t necessarily unusual; for most of black metal’s history, there have been singularly focused artists making challenging art without showing their faces, from Blut Aus Nord to Paysage d’Hiver. Yet there’s something distinctively alien and peculiar about Esoctrilihum that feels at times as if it’s supernaturally divined, a broadcast from nether realms unseen by human eyes.
There’s also a lot of it. Esoctrilihum’s six albums don’t necessarily make Asthâghul the Robert Pollard of black metal, but they’ve all been released since 2017 and typically run over an hour. He seems to channel the music as much as he composes it, these urgent yet abstract creations flowing from his fingers to our ears, materializing in forms that range from direct, visceral applications of punishing black metal or death metal to less recognizable or easily discernible forms. His latest, Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath captures the full spectrum of Esoctrilihum as a musical entity, from moments of gothic ethereality to more grounded exercises in brutalist chug, wrapped in four three-song cycles of horror and darkness.
Black metal is Esoctrilihum’s center of gravity, the one certain constant to it all being Asthâghul’s menacing and monstrous growl, but the music is not bound by any such limitations. Where leadoff track “Ezkikur” is black metal in ethos, in sound it pursues a more melodic and ornate path, eerie synthesizers driving its trip deeper into the batcave. “Salhn” is similarly haunting, with gothic violins leading its haunted charge rather than guitars. Where more (relatively) straightforward moments such as the vintage black metal surge of “Eginbaal” or the mosh pit mayhem of death metal stomper “Dy’th” more than hold their own in providing thrilling moments—as well as plenty of less conventional elements the deeper one descends into their cavernous abyss—it’s in moments such as the tug-of-war between beauty and brutality in “Zhaïc Demon,” the tormented grandeur of “Eginbaal” or the extreme terror cycle of “Xuiotg” where Esoctrilihum prove their mettle as unparalleled purveyors of weird.
There’s a lot happening on Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath, its 12 tracks held together through aesthetics but crafted without acknowledgements of any particular limits. It’s not merely extreme metal, but more accurately extreme music—as much as this is a black metal or death metal record (which it is, without reservation), Asthâghul boldly ventures into noise, ambient, progressive metal, post-punk and gothic rock with confidence and often a mastery for whichever path he chooses to pursue. Though this music is made by a solitary creator in isolation, its horizons aren’t burdened by limitations.
Label: I, Voidhanger
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.