Even though I haven’t been writing many (any) reviews lately, I am definitely doing my best to keep up with some releases. I’m breaking radio silence because I wanted to bring two bands to your attention, both of whom I felt had put out excellent albums this year.
Aether Realm – One Chosen by the Gods
“We are not from Finland”, reads the first line of Aether Realm’s biography. And the caveat seems necessary, as their sound is so reminiscent of Insommium, Ensiferum and other Finnish bands that one could be mistaken for thinking they were from Helsinki, and not, in fact, from Greenville, NC. Combine this with a self-depreciating humour and up-front admission of their dominent influences, and you have a band that’s in no denial about exactly what they are – the US’ answer to Ensiferum / Wintersun.
“Thor’s hammer crashed to the earth with a mighty rumble. When the smoke cleared, there were some guys. Some stuff happened that set the mood, something about a quest to rock some towns, and now we play melodeath.”
But perhaps this attitude detracts somewhat from a band that has some serious folk metal chops. If their debut full-length, One Chosen by the Gods, is anything to go by, Aether Realm are a tight, accomplished group of musicians who focus on creating the kind of album folk metal fans love – bombastic, atmospheric, melodic, and hopelessly catchy.
They haven’t overdone the cheese factor, either, which I applaud, and there’s a raw energy and enthusiasm that comes through in the music. My favourite song from One Chosen by the Gods, is definitely “Swampwitch”, which combines the Ensiferum-style of folk metal with an almost groove metal bridge and a slightly punk-rock chorus. The galloping riffs on “Aether Realm” and the almost disjointing speed and composition of “Ravensong” also particularly stand out.
The biggest downfall of Aether Realm, I think, is their insistence in remaining in the shadow of their influences. Their sound as it stands now is too derivative to advance the, I would love to see them break away from the sound they’ve cultivated and explore more ground. They are clearly talented enough to have their own sound, and the US needs more original folk metal right now.
Attic – The Invocation
Attic are a German “classic” metal act who have just released their debut EP, The Invocation. By classic they don’t mean “includes classical instruments” or anything overly complex like that. They mean, “Mercyful Fate crossed with Judas Priest” classic. I often cringe when I hear bands introduced amongst such lofty company, and while Attic are probably never going to rank amongst the King Diamonds and Priests of this world (they are about 25 years too late for that), if you’re a fan of their sound you are NOT going to be disappointed with The Invocation.
First off – vocals. To pull off this style, the vocals have to be spot on – they need that high-pitched wail, and that deeper, clear tone. They need to carry the music – they can’t hide behind the other instruments.There’s no such thing as a good classic metal sound with sub-par vocals – there’s only CRAP and OMIGOD HOW CAN HE DO THAT WITH HIS VOCAL CHORDS. And this falls into the latter category.
But vocals aren’t everything, you need some killer riffs and solos to go alongside them, and some half-decent song-writing skills to put everything together into a cohesive piece. And it helps if your drummer can play in time. Check, check and check. Honestly, every song on this album is pretty good, but I particularly like “Ghost Of the Orphanage” and “Satan’s Bride” (it’s as silly and classic as the title implies).
The production is suitably pared back – the vocals and riffs are at the forefront of the music, with the vocal tracks sounding suitably echoey and full (love that technical terminology. You can tell I’m not a musician, yes?)
It’s been a busy year for Attic. Having only formed in late 2010 through mutual interests in sinister music, horror movies and literature, spiritualism and occultism, the band self-released their debut self-titled EP, a split 7” with Walpurgis Night, and have now unleashed The Invocation in 2012. The Invocation was recorded at The Underworld Studios and produced, mixed and mastered by Mersus (Destroyer 666, Gospel of the Horns, Zarathustra), and bears cover artwork by Markus Vesper (Manilla Road, A Tortured Soul, Poison Oath, Headless Beast)
This is a catchy, accessible album from a band with a lot of talent – Attic will definitely be a band to watch.