If there's one thing that I've discovered during my explorations of French black metal, it would have to be that the country is home to some of the genre's most adventurous and forward-thinking artists. Although Paris's Aosoth was a name previously unknown to me, the tremendous sounds heard on IV: An Arrow In Heart alone are enough to place them among France's more noteworthy acts; released in April of 2013 for Agonia Records, IV: An Arrow In Heart is Aosoth's fourth full-length release, as well as a masterful example of how to translate the bestial evil of early Norwegian black metal into a modern context. Aosoth demonstrates a remarkably strong and original take on the tried-and-true black metal formula throughout this observation, and any enthusiast of the genre deserves to hear it.
Unlike their countrymen in Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, Aosoth's music should not sound totally alien to listeners accustomed to classic acts like Mayhem and Darkthrone - this is still old school black metal at its core, and while the band does some intriguing things with the style, they don't push the genre in a particularly avant-garde direction. IV: An Arrow In Heart does feature some really dissonant riffing at times, though, and the band manages to incorporate subtle melodies and unique rhythmic ideas into their compositions as well. Whilst the guitars largely remain tremolo-picked to give the album a distinct black metal feel, many of the rhythmic patterns played by the drums and bass are quite innovative; there's not a shortage of blast beats here by any means, but Aosoth's ability to include other ideas into their compositions keeps IV: An Arrow In Heart interesting throughout its entire duration. I'd even hesitate to call the tracks "Broken Dialogue 1" and "Broken Dialogue 2" black metal, but their absolutely horrifying ambiance suits the mood of the album perfectly; the latter track contains some particularly evil spoken word sections.
Though its lengthy compositions and chaotic riff structure may seem a bit daunting at first, the songwriting contains enough variation to keep any black metal fan coming back for more. IV: An Arrow In Heart is a tremendously composed observation from start to finish, with its evil atmospheres and strong sense of style making for a very memorable listen. Aosoth has crafted an essential pickup for those who like their black metal unmistakably "old school", but still with plenty of fresh ideas to set it apart from the pack.
1. An Arrow in Heart
2. One With the Prince with a Thousand Enemies
3. Temple of Knowledge
4. Under the Nails and Fingertips
5. Broken Dialogue 1
6. Broken Dialogue 2
7. Ritual Marks of Penitence