Aphotic - Stillness Grows
Self released
Ambient Death Metal
5 songs (18'51")
Release year: 2002
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

A few months ago I wrote a review of Anathema’s A Fine Day to Exit, and was blasted by the fans for not giving it a good grade. I clearly remember one of the comments: “How can you let an American review dark and emotional music? They are an insensitive bunch.” Not being an American myself, but having lived here for over 10 years, I knew that the argument was bogus. However, rather than continue to argue this point in vain I will summon Aphotic to my assistance. Here are three Americans from the far away state of Wisconsin whose music is based entirely on one cornerstone – emotions. It is often said that some Finnish bands create such somber music as life near the Polar Circle might be tough in the middle of winter. Well, have you been to Green Bay, WI, let’s say in the middle of January?

Aphotic plays a style of music they call “ambient death” themselves. I could not think of a better name. Stillness Grows is the third in line of the 4 or 5 track EPs this band has released over the last four years. It is absolutely clear to me why the band wanted me to review this EP in particular, as the band sounds the most mature on Stillness Grows, and they finally have a real drummer, Jason, so they do not have to resort to programmed percussion. I still would like to slip a short commentary about their previous effort Under Veil of Dark which has some of the most heart wrenching melodies I have heard recently.

On Stillness Grows the melodies are not so much “up front”. Instead, the sound is split between gloomy chug-tug reverberating guitar riffs scraping the bottom of the barrel, and atmospheric keyboards which bring an incredible volume to every song. Drums alternate between frequent kicks and more deliberate rolling sound. The vocals of Chad, who combines on the bass, are very Akerfeldtian with their low tone detached growl. The music is never “fast”, but on Benumb it is probably the slowest, especially in the beginning, dragging you through the mud, with this dark doomy feeling never going away. It all came together for me on Spores where even riffs themselves, not just keyboards, projected an atmosphere of fear, hopelessness and total negativity. Lunar Ride is very similar in this sense with the middle section eliminating the heaviness outright and switching to floating synthesizers which remind me a lot of a xylophone. Aphotic also experimented with clean, droning vocals on this track.

Unlike many other bands in this genre Aphotic’s songs are not long, so the EP never becomes boring even though it incorporates a good amount of repetition. I could hear the toughest critics in the background calling this band an early Katatonia clones. I would say that atmosphere is clearly similar, but Aphotic don’t steal the guitar playing style of Katatonia. You would need to listen to the first Rapture album to hear a real carbon copy. I would characterize the sound of Aphotic as closer to some songs I heard from Yearning, but there are a lot less guitar driven melodies in Aphotic.

If you are looking for a 20 min journey into a depth of one’s soul, you would do very well in picking up Aphotic’s Stillness Grows, along with their other EPs as a matter of fact. Give this band support by ordering it from them directly: Aphotic, c/o Keith Powers, P.O. Box 8236, Green Bay, WI 54308-8236, kpowers-aphotic@new.rr.com One of my favorite labels The End Records, who have Agalloch on their roster, should look very hard in the Aphotic’s direction. I sense the band needs some support as this EP could benefit from a better production. Also, after the first two EPs came out in nice digipacks Stillness Grows does not have the cover art.

Killing Songs :
Spores, Lunar Ride
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