» Blog Archive Aethereus Keep 2018's Year of Death Metal Fresh -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

What a year for the genre. With the likes of Tomb Mold and Of Feather & Bone keeping the traditional style alive, you’ve got the more polished and technical side flourishing in a creative boom. The Artisan Era is doing a stellar job of unifying a plethora of skilled and insightful tech death acts that do more than just showcase musicianship, and with 2018 going into its second half, we’re seeing the label continue to drop heavy-hitting albums one after another. Aethereus’ debut album Absentia is just an extra layer in the cake at this point. With the obvious musicianship and slick production, Aethereus manage to keep their work interesting and exciting, rather than let it fall into a cesspool of technical wankery.

Based out of Washington state, Aethereus have been chugging along for the past ten years in one form or another. After rebranding themselves to their current name in 2014 from Seker, whom they released a full length album under in 2013, the band now show a tremendous amount of improvement in the past five years. Granted, one might also consider Absentia to be Athereus’ second album, but that doesn’t change how it continues to be an impressive endeavor, one that fires on all cylinders and choose to be as creative as it is impressive.

Delightfully eclectic tapping and sweeping passages are abound by the guitarists Aethereus’ ranks. By tech death standards, this is exactly what you want; “Cascades of Light” starts the album to hook you in with some serviceable tech death that exchanges dizzying riffs melodically picked chords to keep the song going, but Aethereus truly shows signs of promise on the following track, “Writhe,” with a quickly paced groove that doesn’t ease up on the tension by how smashed together chords can follow one another up with. Complete with odd guitar noises serving as a refreshing break away from the standard insanity, Aethereus manage to make tech death a fun endeavor rather than the equivalency of your friend shredding at a talent show in grade school.

Perhaps what I’ve enjoyed most about Absentia is that Aethereus actually went and used a preamp on their bass. The bass tone on this album fills up so much space that would otherwise be unoccupied in the mix, and as a result it gives Absentia an impenetrable wall of sound. When the guitars cut away in the title track, the tone of the low end drives it home and truly makes this a more aggressive and dirty endeavor, even with the glossy production to it. Bass is as integral to tech death as every other instrument, and a bass with a boring tone to it can all but break an album’s mix in the end. This clearly isn’t one of those cases. (Fretless basses are an exception because of their unique tone. See: Obscura, Beyond Creation)

While it runs a few seconds under 42 minutes,  Absentia manages to squeeze in a few short instrumentals on the album to keep the momentum going, yet unlike their label mates in Burial in the Sky, I feel the inclusion of “The Black Circle” is just a bit too much for Absentia. Burial in the Sky, by comparison, had a more cohesive concept on Creatio Et Hominus, and in the end the instrumental simply worked for that album, yet the track in on Absentia feels tacked on to an established unit of songs. If you’re one to just want more songs on your albums, then fine, this shouldn’t even be a concern for you. Yet I just feel, especially in the tail-end of the album, it slows the pace a bit, especially because “The Black Circle” goes into another interlude afterwards. It’s not even a bad song, which is what kind of stresses me out about it, yet in the end my feeling still stand.

But even still, Aethereus are definitely better than the usual schlock that’s popping up on your local tech death Facebook group. There’s some really good songs here, some really fun and exciting riffs, and the band actually took the time to make songs rather than exercises at 220 bpm. The Artisan Era just keeps on impressing with its selection of bands, and for a debut album this is a definite win for the all parties involved. There’s still some great tech death to come this year, but why settle for someone’s Soundcloud bedroom project when you’ve got the real thing available to you?

Absentia is available everywhere this Friday via The Artisan Era. You can stream “Cascades of Light” below.

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