THE BEAUTY OF ASTOMATOUS ON THE BEAUTY OF REASON
Who doesn’t love origin stories? Most people, because they’re usually clunky and slow the story down? Oh. Well, in some cases — or, in few cases — they’re fascinating, shedding light on a character or story you love, if not possibly outshining it altogether. And while Astomatous may not outshine the band some of them would join — nimble-fingered proggy black metal titans/objects of Sammy O’Hagar’s unending and slobbering adoration Krallice — they’re certainly a fascinating look into the past, as well as standing confidently on their own merits. In fact, despite being recorded five years ago — practically ancient in Twitter time — The Beauty of Reason, their sole release thus far (and available via their Bandcamp page), holds up unbelievably well.
Krallice shares their rhythm section with Astomatous, which makes sense: they’re the most interesting part of the latter. Drummer Lev Weinstein was already nimble and creative on Reason (and he’s since only gotten better), and bassist/vocalist Nicholas McMaster is a member of the small society known as Metal Bassists That Actually Audibly Do Things (check out the oddball/awesome electric bass/violin tradeoffs that close out “Convergence”). Of course, a firm foundation allows the guitars to go batshit, which they do. Theoretically, there’s nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve heard some Gorguts or Atheist albums. In fact, there’s just enough of their own spin on things to make The Beauty of Reason worthwhile. It’s just shy of 39 minutes-worth of barbed tech death dense enough to reward repeat listens and interesting enough to invite them.
The record poses an interesting situation, too: If it had been recorded in the recent past as opposed to the semi-distant, perhaps no one would care, because bands have done technical death metal to… er, death by now. But really, it‘d still be noteworthy, because the Astomatous playing on The Beauty of Reason are in love with their influences, as evidenced by playing jazz-influenced tech-death at a time when breakdowns, one-man black metal, and BTBAM-style “everything but the goddamn kitchen sink” metal were en vogue. Their affection is palatable.They still sound great in 2011, and not at all beholden to the band they’d eventually sort of become. That being said, eponymous track “Astomatous” suddenly segues into black metal briefly, perhaps an indicator of where Weinstein wanted to head from there, or perhaps a sly, Andy Kaufman-style joke not meant to be funny until years later, when he and his bassist/vocalist would be part of the USBM elite. Or it could just be a bunch of dudes fucking around on a great tech-death album. Either/or, really.
(4 out of 5 horns)