The second offering from Adelaide’s multi-instrumentalist metal prodigy Aidan Cibich, Virtulent Host proves that time may heal but memories and emotions never die.

Initial track ‘Sunlight Drowns In Apathy’ commences with a hauntingly reverberated solo guitar. Saturated by feelings of solitude, it lulls the listener into the false sense that a calm journey is to come—a mistake made evident when the full force of the track launches. It is a jarring shock seemingly alluding to the harsh loneliness that underlies the track’s composition. We return to the haunting melody momentarily before injecting into titular track ‘Virulent Host.’ Aggressive, punchy, and at your throat, this track draws a melodic overlay reminiscent of Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Beast and the Harlot.’ But the feeling is much more desperate, as if the writer is being consumed with his own toxicity. The harder he struggles, the deeper he sinks into frantic hopelessness, finally emerging as a toxic beast. ‘Virulent Host’ is a standout track.

Enter ‘Cyclothymic,’ a charging homage to a burst of productive mania, the track soars between frantic fretting and a solid consistent melody worthy of Arch Enemy esteem. The track holds an underlying hopefulness, perhaps a comment that the downsides of cyclothymia also bring with them the upsides of manic creation. And then, without missing a beat, we’re into ‘Beyond Fathomless Depths,’ the kind of track you need when your back’s against the wall and there’s only one way out.

An unexpected mellow produces in the intro for ‘Memory Cove,’ and Apophis’s powerful melancholy presence is shown with the track swinging between bittersweet memories and utter tragedy. In ‘Seas of Fervent Wings,’ the taste of salt is almost in your mouth as you envision battling a storm alone in the ocean. A deep feeling of loss spills over in the melody of ‘The Widowmakers,’ leading to the engulfing ‘Calignosity,’ a resignation to despair. ‘Engulfing Tranquility’ offers respite, with trilling guitar beaming ascension from the darkness.

Just when you think things are looking up, we’re back to the battle with ‘Abandoned Kingdom From The Sky’ and ‘Demons of Derailment’—the latter an impressive finger-burner showcasing Aidan’s classical influence and technique. ‘Wherein Wolves Die’ closes out the intense journey in true Apophis style, frantically flinging between melodic riffs and searing guitar work.

A journey of devastating loss, bitter loneliness and the slim hope of redemption, Virulent Host explores places few dare to go, with an honesty that can’t be faked. It would have been interesting to see what this album would have been with accompanying vocals, if only for gratuitous reasons, as it stands well without. Speaking through music alone is a monstrous task befitting a true artist—and Aidan is exactly that.

Rating: 7.5/10 devil horns

Virulent Host is due for release on 18 September 2018.

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