Both Amiensus and Oak Pantheon are from Minnesota. Both bands are long-time favorites at our putrid site, and we’ve been following both since very early days in their development. And now both of them, today, have released a new split named Gathering II.
As the name suggests, this isn’t their first collaboration. Five years ago to the day, they jointly released another split named Gathering. It included one track by each band, and so does Gathering II, but the new release also includes a third track that’s a true musical collaboration in which both bands participated.
The new split opens with “A Demonstration” by the Oak Pantheon duo of guitarist/vocalist Tanner Swenson and vocalist Sami Sati, joined for the recording by bassist Todd Farnham and drummer Chris Piette (both of whom are members of Amiensus).
Ringing notes, lively strumming laced with vibrating tones, and a vibrant drum-and-bass rhythm give the music a bright folk-like shine, but the song becomes heavier and darker, with raking chords and rapidly twisting fretwork matched by more furious drumming that eventually turns to a burst of blasting. The advent of howling growls following clean vocals adds to the growing darkness. This multi-dimensional song makes a further turn at the end following a fiery crescendo, with acoustic picking that seems to convey a mood of somber sorrow.
Following “A Demonstration” comes “Tanequil“, that track in which both bands participated, featuring guitar performances by Oak Pantheon’s Tanner Swenson and James Benson from Amiensus; vocals by Swenson, Benson, and Sami Sati; and Farnham and Piette on bass and drums.
As a companion to “A Demonstration”, “Tanequil” also begins with a layered acoustic guitar melody that sounds like springtime in the north woods. And like its predecessor, the song quickly becomes heavier, thanks to Benson‘s ravaging roar (accompanied by harrowing shrieks) and an urgent, pulsing riff. Soaring clean vocals add to the song’s changing textures, as do shimmering, swirling guitar leads and hard-charging rhythmic propulsion.
The music builds in intensity and power, the drums hammering, the layered guitars flickering and spiraling, but following that crescendo the mood changes again in mesmerixing fashion.
The final track is an Amiensus song named “Now Enters Dusk“, which features not only Amiensus (including guitarist/keyboardist Alec Rozsa) but also guest appearances by Joe Waller (guitar) and Aaron McKinney (vocals).
There’s no acoustic introduction in this song. Instead, a solo electric guitar establishes what becomes the main through-line of melody in the track, a haunting, heart-aching, mystical refrain that becomes even more deeply enthralling as the rest of the band join in and those gleaming notes seem to cascade like an aurora borealis.
The tension and pain in the music magnify as the minutes pass, translated through harsh vocals, battering drumwork, and penetrating riffs, both searing and brooding. The clean vocals that enter the frame don’t detract from the growing sense of turmoil, but add melancholy to anguish.
And yet, as much as the opening minutes struck this listener as a reflection of dark times, it becomes magnificent, taking flight on the wings of soaring voices and a riveting guitar solo whose fluid, reverberating tones make the heart swell rather than break.
The closing minutes take us from beautiful wistfulness to yet another climax of powerful, emotionally intense sound, rounding out a split that proves to be a fine display of both bands’ talents (and the evolution of their music from early days), as well as an engrossing and well-integrated trip from start to finish.
Different people may perceive different things in the music, but to me it represents an artifact of “Americana” that manifests the beauty and drama of pastoral landscapes and dense forests, as well as the angst of inner turmoil and the gloom of forlorn memories. And I’ll come back to a word used above; it’s a genuinely enthralling split.
“A Demonstration” and “Tanequil” were mixed by Sean Golyer. “Now Enters Dusk” was mixed by Erik Tordsson. All the tracks were mastered by Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Studios. The split is now available digitally at the Bandcamp pages of both bands, but it will also be released in a slipcase CD edition in late November or early December.
The artwork for the split consists of paintings by Carvaggio (“The Sacrifice of Isaac”, 1602), John Martin (“The Destruction of Tyre”, 1840), and Frederic Edwin Church (“Aurora Borealis”, 1865).
I have to say, on initial listen “A demonstration”, while not wholly a 1:1, strongly lifts from Opeth’s “Harvest” from the Blackwater Park record – especially in the first 1:50 or so of the song. I’m all for Opeth worship, but it’s cutting it close to the bone for me. I’ll have to spend some more time with this song to see how I feel about it.