With their second full album, and first for new label Prosthetic, the cryptically named Horoskopus, Seattle death metal troupe, Book of Black Earth, investigate the Catholic church's secret fascination with, and reliance upon, astrology throughout history; an interesting contradiction of "official" doctrine that spared many a Renaissance astronomer from the flames of inquisition (most notably, Galileo), so long as they could read the ruling Pope's horoscope. As an album concept, this subject matter isn't likely to result in any bookings at the Vatican for Book of Black Earth, but it will surely endear the group to most anti-establishment-minded heavy metal fans -- as will their impressively consistent and sonically well-balanced recipe for death metal. Simply put, the band's natural songwriting instincts allow them to make this inherently complex music much easier to digest; and, as illustrated by surprisingly immediate offerings like "Death of the Sun," "Funeral of Peace," and "The Great Year," theirs is a style that's neither overtly technical, in a Suffocation sort of way, nor excessively loose, in an Entombed, rot & roll sense. Book of Black Earth also excel when operating at slower, doom-like tempos -- whether it's on the regal opening instrumental, "2160," or the intro and conclusion to the Amon Amarth-like "Horoskripture." But, although they incorporate unusual doses of mood-setting and/or backdrop synthesizers into additional standouts like "Cult of Dagon," "From Heaven," and their ten-minute pièce de résistance, "Christ Pathogen," it's still not nearly enough for a band employing a permanent keyboard player -- this angle must to be explored further! That final gripe notwithstanding, though, Horoskopus emphatically establishes Book of Black Earth as a band to be reckoned with in the global death metal landscape.