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Review: Amiensus – Ascension

Amiensus are a relatively young band hailing from the USA – young especially with regard to the age of the band members, who were mostly born in the early to mid-90s, which means that they were in their late teens when they formed Amiensus. Sure, this mere factum isn’t something extraordinary, so why am I mentioning their age? – Simply because of the incredible level of musicianship, songwriting skills and overall maturity that the band displays on their second full-length album. This maturity was already indicated on their previous full-length, Restoration, but it is obvious that they further developed these skills within the two and a half years that passed between the release dates of these records.
This band was unknown to me until the second half 2015, when I accidentally saw that Arsafes, known amongst others for his involvements in Kartikeya, Nevid, and his self-titled project, advertised them via social media and actually did the mixing and mastering of this record. This got me intrigued, so I decided to give the album a listen – what a lucky decision!

Stylistically Amiensus play an amalgamation of a variety of different styles, ranging from black and death metal of a more progressive symphonic kind to dark metal with certain folk and (post)rock influences. All in all, I’d label them as progressive symphonic black/dark metal. But this could mean a lot of things, doesn’t it? So let’s try to describe in particular how Amiensus sound.
The sound on Ascension is great, powerful, and massive, everything is audible, and each instrument can be followed for the whole duration of the album. I imagine achieving this was a hard job, as there are a lot of facets and layers present in most of the songs. Arsafes did an amazing job in putting them into place, giving this album its unique and very professional sound.

The most striking characteristic of the album are the vocals, which were contributed by almost all of the members. There are black metal screams and death metal growls of different pitch present in almost every song, which are emotional and fit the different styles extraordinarily well, contributing massively to the atmosphere. The same applies to the clean vocals, which are mostly performed in baritone range, sometimes standing alone in the musical landscape, sometimes arranged in choirs, often interacting with and counterbalancing the harsh vocals. This certainly adds to the epic, symphonic character of the music.

The guitar work is outstanding as well. The riffs are very precisely played and the guitar sound fits the different styles very well. As the music mostly is of melodic nature, the lead guitars play an important role in creating the atmosphere, while the rhythm guitars in interaction with the accentuated and well-executed drumming and bass do what they are supposed to do: build up the basis for everything, while also being responsible for several highlights. There are many calmer parts with emotional clean guitars as well as a bunch of great soli. The keyboard plays an important role as it does not only enhance the symphonic character, but sometimes it even pushes to the front and assumes a leading role. In general, Amiensus know very well how to build up and release tension, which makes this album so outstanding. A huge spectrum of different emotions is set into tune in a way that younger bands seldom achieve. Be it the raging black metal parts or the dreamy soundscapes with clean guitars and a certain post-rock feeling, every detail appears to be well-devised, displaying the meticulous work these guys are able to do, which borders perfectionism.
The lyrics are also worth following, which is something of huge importance to me. They are personal, but with a certain level of abstraction that reflects my own lyrical approach to this kind of music. Mostly, they deal with philosophical and theological questions, mirroring the protagonists’ search for knowledge, for the self, for truth. Most remarkably, Amiensus manage to treat these subjects in a very authentic way, which is where many bands with similar lyrical themes fail. I guess this is one of the reasons why this album appeals to me so much. Another crucial aspect is the rhythmical variation, especially the six-eighth time that they frequently use, as I personally consider odd time signatures to mirror life in a more appropriate way – and as they resonate more with myself.

It is hard to give some musical references for this kind of music, which is somewhat unique at least to me. Other reviewers have mentioned Agalloch, especially referring to their more folk-influenced passages on their previous album. I am sometimes reminded of early Dornenreich and early Empyrium with regard to the calmer and folkier parts and the clean vocals, while October Falls come to mind during the dark metal soundscapes. Symphonic black metal acts like Dimmu Borgir might serve as a reference, too. Additionally, I had to think of Klabautamann several times, specifically of their first two albums, although Amiensus’ approach is slightly straighter.

Last but not least, even though I really love this album, I have some critical remarks. First, the clean vocals sometimes sound a little bit too adjusted for my taste, so I’d recommend being careful not to become too nu-metal. Secondly, although there are some really ugly passages on this album, the harmonic, symphonic approach leaves not much room for rough edges. The album is homogeneous in a good way, but when the band continues their remarkable development, I fear that their music might get more predictable, or even cheesy, so I suggest keeping this in mind, although I imagine it difficult to continuously walk this borderline of styles whilst maintaining it as authentic as they did up to now.

But listen for yourself!

(This review also has been published in German for www.stormbringer.at)

Song of the day: Омела – Премьера (Omela – Prem’era)

Since a few weeks I’m listening to Omela’s new album Khrustal’naya storona. There are many stand-out tracks and it’s hard for me to highlight one as I’ve got a new favourite with every listen. But I finally chose the one below. If you don’t want to see his drumming (which is not that spectacular), click here.

You can also listen to the album in its entirety here. I wish they got some more listeners outside of Russia!

New album: Klimt1918 – Sentimentale Jugend

Klimt1918, one of my favourite rock bands, is finally releasing their long-anticipated sophomore album called “Sentimentale Jugend” on December 2. More than 8 years have passed since the release of their last album “Just in case we’ll never meet again”, which was a very persistent companion of mine during all these years, as have been all of their previous releases. Thus, this release, which is in fact a double album, to me is one of the most eagerly awaited ones of the past years. But now a few words for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with this Italian band.
They were founded in 1999 in Rome and have released one demo and three albums (for a brief overview, see here) so far. While the early demo was described as gothic metal, their later material is generally labeled as indie rock/alternative rock, though the band itself once described their material as “eerie emotional music”. But it is definitely hard to label them, especially as I usually don’t like labels at all. They surely have alternative rock influences, you can hear post rock crescendos, guitar walls with a lot of reverb, clean vocals that nicely fit the atmosphere (and have some italian feeling to them, especially regarding the sound of the mostly english lyrics) … But see and hear for yourself, their previous releases are (almost) all available at bandcamp!
Their new album has a lot of interesting influences, as Sentimentale Jugend refers to a noise project of the guy from Einstürzende Neubauten and Christiane F. (“We Children From Bahnhof Zoo”), and it is said that <<“Sentimentale Jugend” captures West Berlin in its pulsating, nihilistic glory during the late 70s […] and processes notions from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s award-winning movie “The Lives Of Others”, be it the foggy winter atmosphere in East Berlin during the early 80s or the female protagonist’s melancholy.>> As I am from Berlin, I’m specifically interested in how this might sound like!
As references for some influences of the sound of their new album, which actually consists of two separate releases, “Sentimentale” (9 songs, 54 minutes) and “Jugend” (10 songs, 53 minutes), their label Prophecy Productions lists The Chameleons, iLikeTrains, Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Everly Brothers, Sigur Rós or Dead Can Dance. For the full description, click here.
So, to keep it at least relatively short: If I got you interested, check out their stuff using the given links and, if you want more updates, check out their facebook page.

 

Hölderlin – Hälfte des Lebens

Zwar gibt es von Hölderlin eine Vielzahl bewegender, genialer, zum versinkenden Nachdenken anregender Gedichte, doch der Kürze halber möchte ich diese Kategorie mit einem seiner bekanntesten eröffnen – etliche andere werde im Laufe der Zeit gewiss folgen.

Mit gelben Birnen hänget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen
Das Land in den See,
Ihr holden Schwäne,
Und trunken von Küssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.

Weh mir, wo nehm’ ich, wenn
Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo
Den Sonnenschein,
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Klirren die Fahnen.

F. Hölderlin, 1804

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