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Forgotten Gems: Astomatous – The Beauty of Reason

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Good ideas don’t typically spring fully-formed from a musician’s fingers. Talent must ripen on the vine before it achieves full potency.

For Nick McMaster and Lev Weinstein—lately the bassist and drummer of Brooklyn’s Krallice­­—that ripening time was spent in Astomatous. They recorded The Beauty of Reason as a pair of untested Chicago college students who took time out of their busy schedules to play technical death metal. This telling artifact never saw a proper release. It is now available to the public via Bandcamp.

Weinstein, McMaster, and a rotating cast of guitarists engage in a genre study here—McMaster describes working with David Scalf, a veteran of Ohio’s Internecine, as “death metal camp”. But what a study it is. The Beauty of Reason is free of any sclerotic shred obsession. Instead, I hear Immolation’s proclivity for squealing, squelching groove. More so do I hear Gorguts—the wiry, nihilistic Gorguts of The Erosion of Sanity, before Obscura‘s turn to perverse spiritualism.

Astomatous recorded The Beauty of Reason sporadically between 2004 and 2006, and the glitchy songwriting reflects this piecemeal creative process. This album is mostly an exercise in brilliant moments. Taken whole, the lengthy songs degenerate into bruise-colored whorls of noxious noise.

But the skills of Astomatous’s supporting cast illuminate the murk. Sanford Parker, who had not yet broken out of the local Chicago circuit at the time, tracked The Beauty of Reason‘s drums and vocals. Weinstein’s booming tracks presage Parker’s trademark spacious drum recordings. And future Krallice band member Colin Marston’s mix and mastering job speaks to his talent for clarity and kindness to the bass guitar.

Even Krallice’s songwriting tics appear in embryonic form here. After a vigorous riff workout, “Astomatous” breaks into a trem-picked black metal passage. The guitar lines seem predictable at first, but then McMaster’s restless bass leads them on a tense detour. When the passage finally resolves, it’s like a message from the future—a glimpse of what’s to come for this gifted rhythm section.

— Doug Moore

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HEAR ASTOMATOUS

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BUY THE BEAUTY OF REASON

Bandcamp – (CD, Digital download)

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