Apollyon Sun - _Sub_
(Mayan, 2000)
by: Paul Schwarz (8.5 out of 10)
Thomas Gabriel Fischer has never been an easy man to predict -- actually, let's face it, he's damn near impossible to predict: very uncharacteristic for a musician who's worked so long in the metal genre. His post-Celtic Frost band's debut album -- finally released after nearly nine months of delay in mixing and remixing -- shows no indication that old age has made Tom lazy; _Sub_ is certainly no exception to his ever-unpredictable recording career. Apollyon Sun seem impossible to label without either constructing ludicrously long adjective strings to pre-modify "metal", or resorting to useless splicings like "techno-metal" or "electro-metal" which generally either say nothing informative or narrow down a small part of _Sub_ to represent its whole. This is key to _Sub_'s success as a "Thomas Gabriel..." album; however much I were to ultimately enjoy the innovator's latest step, the last thing I wanted was for _Sub_ to be easy, either to comprehend or to categorise. And not only is it neither, but I even like it. Maybe not as much as 'Frost at their best -- _Sub_ is neither that successful an innovation nor has songs of quite that calibre --, but 'Frost on _Vanity_/_Nemesis_? Possibly. To give you an idea of what to expect, _Sub_'s songs are usually structured centrally around a few simple slow and occasionally mid-paced downward progressing riffs. These are backed by a very pronounced bass guitar and overlaid by Tom's vocals -- which are seedily under pronounced, lending a slimy, grimy urban sheen to the Godflesh-esque guitar and bass interplay. The drum patterns sound entirely programmed (though sampled), but this element is probably _Sub_'s most complimentary quality, rather than the fall-down it so often seems to be for a "metal" record. A wide variety and combination of rhythmic sounds and patterns greatly enhances the comparatively simple interplay of guitar, bass and vocals. The picture presented so far may be called the "skeleton" of _Sub_. Onto it is poured tons of contrasting and varied "flesh" and a quality production "skin". Oscillations, drum 'n' bass / trance breaks, samples, scratching and a host of other, mostly seamlessly integrated aspects feature on _Sub_. It has been put together carefully and professionally. The coherent sound throughout many musical fluctuations belies accusations from some quarters that this is some cobbled together "industrio-metal" affair. _Sub_ has been well executed and is certainly daring; whether you like it will depend on your musical tastes, but do its great financial cost and ambitious musical scope justice and give it a good, focused slab of your time: Tom deserves it, Apollyon Sun deserve it, and _Sub_ is more than worth it for its possibly pleasurable musical rewards.

(article published 12/8/2000)

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