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Aethereus - Absentia Award winner

by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 06 August 2018, 2:40 AM

AETHEREUS is a technical Death Metal band from Tacoma, Washington.   The band showcases stunning musicianship and tight control over their respective instruments; such is their talent for both playing and songwriting, the songs within are also very Prog as well.  Technical Death Metal can either be very good or very bad—especially when a band writes the songs to show their talent in playing instead of in songwriting.  However, AETHEREUS ignore this trend in favor of a keen sense of melody.

It is this willingness to showcase a softer side in between the brutality that really sets them apart.   The first tack, “Cascades of Light,” spends much of the time displaying the technical side of things, with minding drumming and riffs but the best parts are the quieter, melodic moments.  Around the four minute mark, the Death Metal train comes to a complete stop with keys and whispered vocals taking the forefront.  Behner and Hermans shine through, keeping the technical/prog side of the band exposed during these ambient textures.

Hermans is no doubt the MVP of the album, with his adventurous bass.  Often times, my ears would single him out and focus on the bass rather than the rest of the band; it is truly a pleasure to listen to his parts and that is no small feat in a genre when the bass is sometimes buried so far into the mix that it can’t be heard.  The clear production of the album keeps this from happening and it is possible to find any one instruments and follow it from beginning to end.  Each player (and the vocalist) have a journey to reach and they all arrive in the same place, converging together unusually more smooth than a lot of other Tech Death bands.   However, the shiny production takes a bit of the edge off the heavier parts of the album—this definitely isn’t as brutal as anything from NECROPHAGIST or AUGURY, although the musicianship is just as stunning.

Fluorescent Halls of Decay,” is a hell of a title but it is also one hell of a song. Bracther spits out his vocals, venomously flowing between high screams and low grunts.   He has a modern approach to Death vocals but he never gets too spastic or uninteresting.   The main riff is heavy as fuck and catchy as hell and they lead right into other light melodic moment.  These lighter moments are when the band is the loudest; the spaces in between speaking volumes.  The song ends on a heavier note and the guitar solos are melodic yet technical enough to bend your mind.

The album gets increasingly daring and more adventurous as it goes along, with the deeper cuts providing even more of a progressive tone. “That Which Left Behind,” deftly combines melody, brutality, and Prog into one cohesive force.   The beginning guitars remind me of the more melodic moments of bands like ARSIS and ANATA.   The mid part of the song is a beautiful and clever showcase of how well the band incorporates clean textures into Death Metal and is one of the best moments of the album.  It walks off the beaten path but never sounds unfamiliar; AETHEREUS have a rare ability to constantly change things up without ever losing their core identity.

With “Absentia,” AETHEREUS have crafted a finely tuned Technical/Progressive Death Metal album that isn’t afraid to get out of its own way and show us the limits of the genre can be stretched but still remain brutal. I wish the album was a bit more even—the first half doesn’t quite reach the highs of the final tracks but I suppose it isn’t really a bad thing the album gets better the further in you go because a lot of albums are the exact opposite. If you are tired of the Tech Death scene or find a lot of Prog Metal bands to lack a real heavier side, this album is a near perfect combination of the two scenes.  Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Cascades of Light
2. Writhe
3. Mortal Abrogation
4. Fluorescent Halls of Decay
5. Absentia
6. That Which Is Left Behind
7. The Black Circle
8. With You, I Walk
9. The Pale Beast
Vance Bratcher – Vocals
Kyle Chapman – Guitar/Vocals
Ben Gassman – Guitar
Scott Hermans – Bass
Matthew Behner – Drums
Record Label: The Artisan Era


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Edited 27 January 2023

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