Sometimes visual metaphors are the most vivid means of capturing the sensations of hard-to-describe music. The imagery that came to this writer’s mind in listening to the song we’re premiering here was an extravagant fireworks display, or a kaleidoscope being spun at the speed of a turbine. The music is equally dazzling, the kind of performance that will leave most listeners wide-eyed in wonder, and smiling in delight.
The song (presented through a lyric video that makes good use of Sam Nelson’s wonderful cover art) is “The Pale Beast“, the final track on Absentia, the debut album of Aethereus from Washington State, which will be released on August 10th by The Artisan Era. It’s a prime example of this group’s brand of progressive death metal, which (as the label accurately describes) “deftly combines elements of atmospheric death metal, ferocious technical death metal, and more overtly melodic death metal”. Once you’ve heard the music, it’s not surprising that Aethereus cite Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Cynic, and Gorod among their prime influences.
The path toward Absentia wasn’t an easy one for this group of seasoned musicians. The two founding guitarists, Kyle Chapman and Benjamin Gassman, had been writing together in a previous project called Seker. Joined by vocalist John Stratton and bassist Shaun Hansen, they released a debut EP (Ego Futurus) in 2015, which featured drummer Luis Martinez (Oblivion, ex-The Zenith Passage). After bringing drummer Matt Behner (ex-Fully Consumed, ex-Year of Desolation) on board, they began work on an album… but that work was brought to a halt after the untimely death of Shaun Hansen.
Vocalist Vance Bratcher and bassist Scott Hermanns (of Seattle’s The Devils of Loudon) joined Aethereus, and work on the album resumed, but with a different conceptual focus under the influence of Hansen’s death. As Kyle Chapman explains: “It went from a sort of weird self-indulgent sci-fi story to be about depression and loss, becoming both a point of frustration and catharsis.” He continues:
“Absentia is loosely structured around the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance). Musically, lyrically, and conceptually, the album follows the stages of grief and describes the experience of losing a loved one and the lasting impact that person’s absence has on an individual, a group, and life as a whole. It begins in a chaotic and bombastic manner, goes into some somber places, but ultimately ends on a somewhat hopeful note.”
That background leads to a fuller appreciation of “The Pale Beast“. Even though it comes at the end of the album, it seems to encompass many of the emotions captured in those stages of grief. There are, for example, sensations of delirium and revelation in the swirling, flickering, and soaring guitars, as well as rage and anguish in Bratcher’s mix of guttural roars and cauterizing shrieks. And an interlude in the song, consisting of a duet by acoustic and electric guitar, is both introspective and pained.
With the exception of that interlude and the acoustic-guitar conclusion, however, the song is a powerhouse of speed, packed with technically impressive performances and blazing with creative exuberance. Anchored by explosive drumming and a thundering and bubbling bass, the music is a head-spinner of fleet-fingered, fret-leaping guitar work and includes a starburst of a solo near the end, followed immediately by a swirling, sorcerous arpeggio.
It really is like a fireworks display and a wheeling kaleidoscope of sound — and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we have.
Through the links below you’ll find pre-order information, followed by the track list and our song premiere.
1. Cascades of Light
3. Mortal Abrogation
4. Fluorescent Halls of Decay (Ft. Brody Uttley of Rivers of Nihil)
6. That Which is Left Behind
7. The Black Circle
8. With You, I Walk
9. The Pale Beast