Unimpressed with the band's ability to fill 10 minutes of content (An Ode to Thee Ancient Great Goddess), I could only hope that the unattractive full-length debut of Greeks Stutthof would offer a more compelling case for their blustering black metal artistry amidst an ocean of vicious sound-a-likes performing an identical brand of methodic, fast paced throughput with flourishes of synthesizer to preserve a grandiose atmosphere. Well, thankfully, Towards Thy Astral Path... does deliver an improvement over both that EP and their previous split recording. An inclement and varied surge of hostility that, while unoriginal to the max, at least understands the components that made its influences so great and enduring in the prior decade.
In particular, I will single out a fusion of Bathory's Blood Fire Death and Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse, two of the best recordings this entire genre has ever shat forth from the minds of men, as the parameters of what Stutthof have executed here. No, the songwriting is not nearly so immortal and affecting to live up to such precedents, but the aim is rather spot on to emulate those devilish diatribes. There are some lovely ambient/synth sequences here dubbed "Opus I: Blut" and "Opus II: Boden", the first resonating with a cosmic grace, the latter with desperate sampled choirs and voices, and they help break up the more intense metallic content. I'd already heard "An Ode to Thee Ancient Great Goddess", and there are several similar, sinister surges present like "The Age of Revelation" and "The Feast of Everlasting Flame", but at least these are less of a 'one-track' blitz of tempo, ceding into seething, median gaits where it is deemed apropos.
But in truth, I actually like the songs that in general slower. "In the Fields of the Stars" reignites the pagan, ominous fire of Bathory's Viking epic, with the wicked snarls of Acherontas given much breathing room to flow over the barbaric guitar rhythms. The title track is possessive of even more depth, with manic clean vocals used as a schizo narrative over the ascending and descending walls of atmospheric choir/synth and ripping axe accompaniment. Stutthof still has that razor edged, raw appeal of lo-fi production present on the earlier recordings, and yet here they have truly manifest the added layer of sound that they were only hinting at on their EP. Granted, this is in no way novel when there were already countless examples of the style in the record bins, many far superior to this one, but if it lacks any exemplary characteristics or real hypnotic songwriting, at least this is a competent stab at a black metal substratum which peaked many years before.
Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10] (I am a creature of forever)