Despite his youth, Serg Streltsov is a veteran of the Pittsburgh metal scene and a survivor having come to the United States from Ukraine. After sharpening his claws in bands such as Dreadeth, Incinerate Creation, Bloodwraith, Haxxan, and even gory death metal pioneers Necrophagia, Streltsov has brought us something new and more intimate in Esoterica, the first offering from Automb. With another even more battle-scarred member in drummer Scott Fuller, who has seen combat within the ranks of Jungle Rot, Havok, Sentinel Beast, and Morbid Angel to name a few, this power trio is rounded out by newcomer and vlogger Danielle Evans, a transplant from Connecticut who handles vocal, keyboard, and bass chores, making them less of a side project and more of a minor supergroup.
“Horned God” will stun casual listeners who might mistake Automb for mere Bandcamp upstarts, its juggernaut drums, razor-wire guitars, and necromantic, incantatory cadence recalling Vader and Mortuary Drape as much as it does Immortal, Evans’ dragon barks filling the night air with incendiary, worshipful anger over the lost causes of elder deities. Aside from a couple of brief, oddly soothing instrumentals, one beginning the record and another in its last quarter, Esoterica contains little introspection, tracks like “Call of Hekate,” “Blood Moon,” “Summoning the Storm,” and closing Derketan feast “Into Nothingness” celebrating the occult and forbidden Faustian texts in the grand, brutal, caustic tradition of Drudkh, Mayhem, Behemoth, and Watain, but with a conviction that honestly outclasses them all.
Smart, creative, reverent songwriting clashes with lyrics that simultaneously frighten and inspire, as is the case with “The Forest,” a ritual of terror, death, and resurrection that condenses a Faustian lifetime into 5 minutes.
Had Esoterica come out of a band from Europe, I think the clarion calls would be louder and the mystique more tangible from the metal press at large and fandom. All too many listeners and critics might scroll past Automb as just another entry on Encyclopedia Metallum, but they are no half-baked novices dabbling with forces they do not understand. Rather, Automb are keepers of The Oath and have a raging desire to prove it.