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Aethereus - Leiden Award winner

by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 17 January 2022, 9:00 AM

AETHEREUS is a death metal band from Tacoma, Washington who formed in 2008 as SEKER but changed their named to AETHEREUS in 2014. "Leiden" is their second full length album, in addition to having an EP. I reviewed their previous album, 2019's  "Absentia" and was dazzled by their technical music that prized songwriting above showmanship. "Leiden," is another album of challenging songs that are technical, demanding much from the listener, but also layered with atmosphere and a daring sense of melody. As such, the album is as much progressive as it is technical. Fortunately, above all, it is death metal; no matter what direction the album goes, the hallmark extremes of the genre are always present.

This gives the album a solid, immovable foundation that, in turn, makes "Leiden" sound far more robust and full than many other albums of this style. The production and mix is perfection because, even though there is a lot happening in each song, the they don't sound cluttered. Each instrument can be heard with full clarity. On the "Absentia" review, I sang the praise of bassist Scott Hermanns. While he gives yet another masterful performance, the MVP this time is vocalist Vance Bratcher. While his range displayed a variety of vicious growls and screams, he has spent the past few years getting better.  Across the album's eight tracks, his attack is one of vicious forward momentum.

"Aberration," begins with quiet keys that build up into a blitzkrieg of death metal. The double bass lays an impenetrable foundation down, boosted by subtle use of keys.  Little moments like that make the album even more enjoyable—-the band is so adapt and filling up every second of space. Around the 4:22 mark, the growls dig deep while the rhythm guitar just rips up the landscape before a short but sweet guitar slides out smoothly. The final moments of the song consist of lush clean notes and moving keys that wind the song down, the mirror opposite of when they helped bring it to rise in the beginning.

The flow of the bass and vocals on "Shrouded in Kaleidoscopic," is fantastic. The guitars are groovy and technical all at once, a line that is hard to ride but not for Benjamin and Kyle. The middle portion has the guitars dancing clean notes around the bass while the death vocals tear it up.  The solo afterwards works its way through the dense rhythm, combining melody and a display of tech prowess. Piano and boisterous keys alongside violin end the song with a classical flare. I don't know if these are all symphonics or real instruments but they sound appropriately charming and epic. The song flows into the next track, "Behold The World Eater" which explodes…and keeps exploding outward. Each riff, drum hit…it all ripples into another movement and it sort of grows out that was as a very expansive song. The flesh of the song belongs to the bass ad drums at a little over the halfway point before a delicious solo steals the show but is empowered by the double bass. The final moment of the song is a catchy melodic section that, after brief clean guitar, returns to death metal for a brutal finish.

The final track, "Upon Infinite Seas" is one of my favorite track on the album. The huge growls and keys in the song's opening moments make the song both tragic and dangerous. The fast spoken clean vocals that backup the growls are a nice touch too, adding a dose of panic to the atmosphere. The bass and tribal like drums when the growls do spoke word is clever and creates a trance like state that grabs the listener hard. Afterwards, the song grows very spastic and insane but the riffs remain deadly with their impeccable tone. Around the six minute mark, the keys turn the song curious and even whimsical but the growls turn it a sickly of anxious fear before the song once more returns monstrous. AETHEREUS' "Leiden," is setting the bar high for tech death very early in the year but it has more than enough staying power and memorable moments to not get lost in the upcoming flood of releases.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Aberration
2. Endless Cycle of Rebirth
3. Shrouded in Kaleidoscopic Skin
4. Behold, the World Eater
5. The Living Abyss
6. Leiden
7. Son of a Nameless Father
8. Upon Infinite Seas
Benjamin Gassman - Guitars
Kyle Chapman - Guitars, Vocals
Matt Behner - Drums
Vance Bratcher - Vocals
Scott Hermanns - Bass
Record Label: The Artisan Era


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