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Distinct "riffs" in black metal are sometimes hard to come by, owing to the genre's penchant for dense atmospherics and thick layering which can sometimes obscure detail. However, it is plenty possible to showcase some extra guitar flair while still remaining heady as hell overall, it's just a harder goal to achieve. For French duo Epectase and their debut full-length Astres, it seems the challenge was no sweat: this album is chock-full of mesmerizing guitar calisthenics which only enhance the veracity of its soundstage rather than clarifying it to any predictable point. Check out an exclusive stream of Astres's second track "Entering the Domain of the Solar Sovereign" below.

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"Entering the Domain of the Solar Sovereign," within its behemoth 16-minute runtime, even showcases a touch of prog. Again, guitars here take a lead role, defining Astres's attack, so to speak -- this is not to say anything negative about the drumming or vocals, either, both of which hold their own with significant aplomb. In any case, get a load of the total tone/style shift in this track at around the six-minute mark -- a gutsy move for sure, and a risky one too, but Epectase play it out like pros. This is just a taste, too: Astres has a veritable fuckload up its sleeve and rewards like few albums do on repeat listens.

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Astres releases May 24th via I, Voidhanger. Stream the album's first track via Bandcamp.

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