Review: Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy

Cast The Stone heaved their proverbial stone into the infinite seas of metal back in 2005 with their debut album Dark Winds Descending. Now a full 13 years later, Cast The Stone is back with a comparative boulder and are poised to push it right into the waters. This time, every sensible metal fan who’s paying attention is sure to take notice. Empyrean Atrophy isn’t just a comeback to make a noise and a splash. It’s here to made waves and knock your sorry boat-havin’ ass right into the water.

Cast The Stone reactivated right around the bassist Derek Engemann and Cattle Decapitation parted ways in early 2018. Alongside guitarist Mark Kloeppel (Misery Index, Scour), drummer Jesse Schobel (Oracle, ex-Scour) and newer vocalist Andrew Huskey, the band was reborn and signed to Agonia Records. At the time, the press release for the signing stated Cast The Stone “returns not as some metal supergroup, but as a project of the original and purest intent of its membership.” Which is a bold statement that essentially says “this is either going to blow you away or completely fail to live up to this standard.” Having heard what I’ve heard now, I understand why Agonia Records would make a claim like that. Empyrean Atrophy is a fantastic release.

Marketing Cast The Stone as simply death metal would be a gross disservice to the band. Empyrean Atrophy has everything from songs like “As the Dead Lie,” which is rife with sledgehammer full-band riffs that return slower at the end to finishing caving your skull in to your spine, to melodic, Opeth-ian progressive masterpieces like “The Burning Horizon.” Oh, and if you’re not invisible oranges-ing to the city-leveling heaviness of the “even if it kills me / and I hope it kills me” section of the title track, then you just hate good metal.

Balancing out the heaviness are expertly written clean sections and uses of acoustic guitars like the ones found all over “A Plague Of Light.” Then to state the completely obvious is the three-plus minute neo-classical solo acoustic piece right in the middle of the release “Standing In The Shadows.” Its presence balances out the EP and also throws in a new flavor that’s more prevalent on the second half of the release. Which then brings up the topic of song sequencing, which Cast The Stone nails.

It’s cliché as hell at this point to put the longest song as the final track on any release, and it almost always feels contrived. Cast The Stone throws in the seven-minute “The Burning Horizon” as the second track, which counters the straight-forward heaviness of the opener. Then “Standing In The Shadows” counters “The Burning Horizon,” and so on and so far. Empyrean Atrophy is purposefully laid out so that you’re getting something a little different each time, and with flavors of the previous song still peppered in there for continuity.

Empyrean Atrophy is death metal, but not what you’re expecting from current-and-ex-members of Misery Index and Cattle Decapitation. It’s progressive. It’s throwdown mosh city. It’s a little melancholic and acoustic. It’s 27 minutes of diverse, well thought out, perfectly executed death metal that sticks to the core of what it wants to be, but bleeds just outside the lines enough to create something a little abstract.

Cast The Stone is not a supergroup. Cast The Stone is Cast The Stone.

Buy Empyrean Atrophy here.

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