Title: Silent Witness
Label: Snow Wave Records
Release Date: 12 September 2018
Format reviewed: Digital MP3
Melodic Death Metal origins? I was there. Early 90’s pioneers – Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, In Flames set the scene. 25 years on, without question The ‘Gothenburg’ sound is an institution within! Of course for ease of description and promotion, every genre has a style, a sound and a blueprint; A fucking label – ‘Melodeath’ is no exception. However, for some, and despite the first class musicianship involved, the style is a bridge too far. Evolution is difficult they say. Tell that to Spain’s ÆOLIAN!
Like all Heavy music genre’s, there are those that emulate and fall neatly behind their forefathers – solid, adequate representations of their masters for the sheer love of the music. B Grade, second tier if you will. Melodic Death Metal has spawned a million imitators and is rightly derided for it’s often lack of inventiveness. But as we know, there will always be those that strive to offer some extra life and distinctive individual dynamics to said blueprint. Amazingly, we look to Spain’s ÆOLIAN to scratch that itch!
From the outset, it is apparent that ÆOLIAN are interested in providing the full package. They have a lot to say! Look at the cover art – I’d buy the vinyl (none as yet) on that shit alone. Licensed by Kilian Eng (concept artist for Disney, HBO, Marvel and others) ‘The Silent Witness’ is striking in its elegance and has powerful meaning beyond its cover. There is a theme here that this Spanish quartet wants the listener to take seriously. From the cover art, the song titles to the lyrics, ÆOLIAN are dead set keen to have you open your eyes to the environmental destruction that humanity is waging upon the Earth. They’re not the first band to march down this ‘Eco-Nature’ path but by god, do they play their card well. Contextually, each and every song on this album comes from the view point of nature not being able to speak for itself – a silent witness to man’s negative impact. Instead, Nature gives its clues in physical forms and lyrically ÆOLIAN becomes its voice – ‘The End of Ice’ (Iceshelf/Global Warming), ‘My Stripes in Sadness (Captured Tigers), Immensity (Sea Pollution) and ‘Going to Extinction (Human apathy re Ecology) are just some of the important themes laid out here. No fantasy. Pure in your face Reality! I applaud it and it makes me listen to ÆOLIAN’s music with even greater intent.
Fortunately, musically, ÆOLIAN are also able to deliver their message with outstanding results. Yes, their style is forged from the traditional rrecognizableMelodeath blueprint but unlike the surplus of their counterparts pursuing the same line there are important subtle, yet magnificently powerful nuances at play here. It is those differences that make ‘The Silent Witness’ much more than your average fare. ÆOLIAN understand the boundaries of this style and have refused to play to its limiting configuration. As a result, we have a band pursuing a much more dynamic, song-oriented appealing style. There is an almost irresistible catchiness and groove to ÆOLIAN’s compositions – and for me, it’s an emphasis on the main riff without the overt layers of melodic leads and keyboards (there are none!) that tends to over-embellish this genre even more. The melodic lead work is there – no question – but it’s tastefully done in way that adds an ‘epic’ emotional atmosphere to their music. It adds shade and color to the riff. Add to the mix elements of triumphant Nordic Folk/Viking Metal stylings, tempo changes with acoustic introduction/interludes and hints of blasting Black Metal and things become extremely vibrant and interesting.
As enticing as the production (via Miguel A. Riutort – The Unity, Cryptopsy, The Agonist among others), the musicianship and the song writing is on ‘Silent Witness’, it is perhaps the vocal presence of Daniel Pérez that meshes this whole thing together. At its core, musically and lyrically ‘The Silent Witness’ is a powerfully pissed off record – thus, the message needs to be delivered in kind. Coming off like a searing combination of Stanne/Fridén meets Dani Filth, Perez’s performance here is nothing short of blistering. With utter demonic screams of anger and rage, Perez’ delivers the bands lyrical prose with unreserved forceful determination and beckoning – virtually imploring the listener/US to open our fucking eyes and look at what we’ve become.
In being critical, because ‘Silent Witness’ is so damn good, it could be said that ÆOLIAN’s biggest strength is actually its weakness. There are 12 compositions here and all have something to say, but towards the latter third of the album – perhaps with ‘Elysium and Wardens of the Sea’ it could be argued that there is a slight dip in quality and as with the limiting nature of this style some tracks can bleed into each other. But really, the song writing is so top notch that most Melodeath bands would jump at the chance at penning those tracks also. For the most part, ÆOLIAN have succeeded establishing their own place in a crowded scene.
All props go to Finnish label Snow Wave Records in allowing ÆOLIAN’s M.O with ‘Silent Witness’ to be captured in such a stunning display of artistic production. If you are a fan of this style (or perhaps became somewhat jaded of late) then this album is absolutely mandatory. Fans of epic Nordic influences Melodeath – Borknagar/Amorphis etc will also find this attractive. It is emotively vibrant and dynamic from start to finish, has a truly important lyrical message and holds up as one of the strongest debut album of the year. 8.5/10 KMaN
8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory
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