Reviewed by Mike Macabre
Epic Viking/Pagan Melodic Death Metal… Remember your first taste of this genre of music with the debuts of Ensiferum and Turisas? Finntroll and Moonsorrow? Or if you are a total connoisseur: Windir, Mythotyn, and Falkenbach? It was a magical listening experience. Mixing melodic death metal with folk instruments and melodies was a breath of fresh air, and I became an instant fan.
When I got some cash I wanted to go to one of the European metal festivals to finally see these bands play live. I still do, but Hell, if you have been following the genre at all you realize that taking a trip to Europe is no longer necessary to get your fix of Metal Pagan Viking Warriors who piss epic.
I like to think that Amon Amarth excessively touring the states opened the floodgates for these bands to come across the Atlantic. Now, with Paganfest and other annual shows, you can see a handful of these bands on one bill. But why stop there? It is safe to say that every major US city has their own Epic Viking Pirate Pagan Saxon Battle Melodic Death Metal band. Like children emulating their favorite Power Ranger moves, it was bound to happen.
And FUCK, so this is what happens when the kids are more badass than the show…
Æther Realm – an aforementioned band from Greenville, North Carolina, has released their debut album “One Chosen by the Gods”. So let’s break it down track by track.
1) Journey of Discovery – The mandatory instrumental intro track, complete with a bevel of synths and an army of monks singing “Ohhh”. You have heard this before, but damn is it a guilty pleasure and gets you pumped for what’s about to come.
2) Hourglass – A very melodic track. I really like the fierceness of the drumming on this song. It is littered with shred guitars and a very nice melodic lead at around the 2:40 mark. And what’s that? Yes, you can actually hear the bass guitar doing the very same lead at the 3:00 mark. Bravo.
3) Æther Realm – A viking melodic death metal album wouldn’t be complete without a song that uses a triplet riff. Ride that horse to war. Afterwards, the riffage doesn’t stop. At the 1:55 mark it goes into guitar solo mode. At this point I am really appreciating the mix of this album. The solo takes the front from the vocals and shreds fantastically. It then ends with a key change. This will be a great live song.
4) Swampwitch – With the track title, I can’t help but wonder if Kalmah was a source of inspiration for this song. So far it is the heaviest track and has blast beats, but at the same time is still very melodic. Especially that very nasty dual solo. These guys are very proficient with their instruments.
5) One Chosen by the Gods – Holy Shit. Right off the bat this is my favorite song. I am pretty sure the band found a way to distill pure epic and inject it into their instruments for this track. This is everything I love about the genre all in one. Double bass, tremolo picking, and a great chant that I am sure is going to include every member of the crowd when played live. It’s heavy as fuck, full of brutal riffs, and synths that perfectly compliment the song. Yup, it’s melodic too with monk “ohhhs”. It’s got everything. This is where Æther Realm surpass their idols.
6) Ravensong – This sounds rather power metal in the intro. However, it drops that and goes into pure shred. I like how the bass is prominent in this song.
7) Winter’s Grasp – This is a very guitar-heavy song. They are all over the place, dancing with melody. The synths in the middle are very nice and add a little bit of atmosphere. The double bass is brutally fast as well. A very interesting song that changes tempo a lot.
8) Odin Will Provide – This sounds a lot like Amon Amarth in the beginning. Then, fuck yes, triplet city! Very solid double bass during this song. I like the main melody line as well. The tremolo picking melodic line at 2:20 with the double bass is awesome. I am a sucker for this stuff, and doesn’t get much better than this. To me, this is the ultimate horns in the air song on the album.
9) Oak – Holy shit, is that a bit of Wintersun I hear in this song? The choirs singing along in the chorus sound fantastic. Again, melodic as all Hell and the solos are top notch. And just like the start of the album, it finishes with a synth instrumental segment that makes you remember and appreciate the journey. A great finish to a great album!
The production job of this album is top notch. It is very professional and sounds like Nuclear Blast / Century Media quality. A lot of work was put into this album and it shows. I really like the rawness found in the vocals. There is real emotion and effort in these vox. It does not sound like just another walk around the block – Petri Lindroos that means you… No, this sounds like those first few Ensiferum albums in its raw effort and passion.
However, if there is only one gripe I have with the album, it is that it needs to slow down a bit at times. An “Old Man / Little Dreamer” would make this album nearly perfect. But don’t let that stray you away from it, this is among the best of the genre in years.
Æther Realm’s “One Chosen by the Gods” is just about as good as it gets. I highly recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of the genre. Get it, the magic is back. And while you’re at it, also pick up Brymir’s “Breathe Fire Into the Sun”, you’ll thank me later.