Asklepeion - I: Basilisk

For those looking for a step back into the late 90s black metal in the vein of Emperor, Old Man’s Child, and even Dimmu Borgir, look no further than Netherland’s Asklepeion. Born in 2021 due to the pandemic, this three piece unleash some harsh yet crisp melodies in their debut album “I: Basilisk”. For those who feel that Dimmu Borgir has gone too far overproduced with their orchestras, or that Dodheimsgard is a bit too all over the place, or that Marduk has gotten guttural and overly ferocious, then Asklepeion can be considered a nice middle ground. While it is heavily symphonic similar to that of Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child with choirs and keyboard use, the guitar work and harshness of the vocals and drums leans a bit more towards the likes of Emperor and even that of much older Graveworm with a lot of the riffs, especially in a churning track like ‘The Mocking Of The Poor.’

Asklepeion do their best to create a modern atmosphere while retaining their roots. Yes, the opening of the title track is grandiose and drawn out but once the thunderous programmed drumming hits by Thijs along with William's (ex Faal) rasps and the majestic guitar sweeps from Robster, then one can tell that this is a little more geared towards the middle ground fans. Other tracks like ‘He Moves In Mysterious Waves’ are a bit dirtier sounding with the riffs, faster, and even supported by the keyboards, really feature more of that “Nightside Eclipse” feel; it still sounds modern but those who missed the early days of more symphonic black metal will really enjoy this track. Old Man’s Child fans of pre “Ill Natured Spiritual Invasion” days will find ‘Myrddin’ enjoyable for its keyboard moments and rather orchestral style, but not so much that it feels like the rest of the music gets lost or pushed back because of the keyboards.

The closing ‘The Oracle And The Great’ is where Asklepeion really come through as a band. While certainly less keyboard driven, the riffs seem louder, still melodic, and a bit more “Stormblast” era Dimmu Borgir like versus the “Enthroned…” era. The guitar work here is especially addictive, much like hearing ‘Vredesbryd’ for the first time (minus the orchestral elements). The vocal rasp/ growl is also harsher and more evil sounding, losing that typical Emperor style screech that populates a lot of the other tracks. It feels like here “I: Basilisk” sheds its typical ‘90s worship’ tropes and aims for just a good solid modern black metal track that stands on its own.

Overall, those who enjoy the late 90s black metal that isn’t ‘kvlt’ or overly raw but enjoys a strong amount of melody from the riffs, but not too overly solo driven or orchestral populated will feel that Asklepeion’s debut album is a solid listen. There is a certain level of rawness to it, but not so much the distortion hiss will overshadow all the other important elements that the band brings to bear.

4 / 5 STARS

1. Basilisk
2. Boiling Veins
3. He Moves In Mysterious Ways
4. In For The Kill
5. Myrddin
6. The Mocking Of The Poor
7. The Oracle And The Great