(This is DGR‘s review of the new second album by the German melodic death metal band Fading Aeon, which was released last December.)
Many, many, many moons ago in a long forgotten time I reviewed the debut release by German prog-melodeath act Fading Aeon. The group’s first release was a solid hybrid of the mass of genres that melodeath has become over the years, including pulling in influences from folk metal bands to the more long-form and journey-minded groups like Be’Lakor.
Debut releases hold a lot of potential and Fading Aeon’s A Warrior’s Tale was one style of ‘promising’ release, with much of it feeling like it was the group laying a foundation for things to come. While they had already solidified in a sound for that release, it still hinted that the group had more ideas toying with them than what had initially been put down. Where the group would head in their followup was an interesting prospect at the very least, so while it may have landed in a quieter time of the year in the opening weeks of December 2021, Fading Aeon saw fit to act upon that with their sophomore album The Voices Within.
Like it’s older sibling The Voices Within is only five songs long, yet it asks more of the listener the second time around, because The Voices Within is also ten minutes longer than its predecessor. That means there’s only two songs here that clock in under ten minutes, one that skirts over it, and two that sail way the hell over that line with reckless abandon. There’s much consideration to be granted to how a band justify that time when songs start getting that long; it’s an issue that’s been brought up with groups like the aforementioned Be’lakor as well.
Fifty-three minutes is a bit on the lengthy side but nothing too crazy. Spread that out over five songs though, and now you’re inviting people to really dissect each song, because if nothing else they’ll have plenty of time to do so, especially if – as Fading Aeon are demonstrating here – you’re going for more of a cinematic bent, with every song including multiple movements. While the group’s previous release may have been called A Warrior’s Tale, it is The Voices Within that has tales to be told.
Of course, upon initial inspection it’s hard not to immediately dive in to both “Defying The Path Foregone” and “Ashes To Ashes…” after seeing both weigh in at thirteen minutes and then some; that’s bound to pique curiosity. At the very least they rank very high on the ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me…’ meter. Both songs are filled to bursting with doubled-guitar leads and different melodic lines that carve their way throughout them. “Ashes To Ashes…” is a little bit more up-tempo of the two and the one that draws its opening inspiration from the folk-metal wold, whereas “Defying the Path Foregone” is the slower ‘epic’ of the two. In reality, both blur into one another – especially as vocalist/bassist Christian Stauch uses a hefty bellow to prop both songs upright – as the whole release plays out as one large movement.
What is interesting is that although “Defying The Path Foregone” is the one that barely edges out the other track as having the most ‘stuff’ in it, “Ashes To Ashes…” has the full-on quieter section right in the center, which kind of brings all the songs’ forward momentum to a sudden end before the band decide to rocket things forward again. It’s an interesting choice in justifying how “Ashes To Ashes…” grasps its way toward its near-fourteen minutes of time.
Another surprise comes in the form of the light-Insomnium clean guitar influence that appears multiple times throughout The Voices Within. Fading Aeon haven’t shot into the world of melancholy quite like that band has, yet it was hard not to notice it when it was part of the album’s opening in “The Beginning Of The End” and again when “Tempting Voices” slowly segued into “Defying The Path Foregone”. In their journey to write mini-melodeath epics that could challenge Homer’s Odyssey for number of chapters, Fading Aeon continue to pull in a variety of different styles.
Closer “…Dust To Dust” – in case you were wondering where the ellipsis at the end of “Ashes To Ashes…” was heading – does this as well, by being the real galloping death metal track on the album. “Ashes To Ashes…” journeys to all ends of the Earth during its run-time and “…Dust To Dust” is more content to gallop backwards to the core of the band’s sound and just make a raucous melodeath song that merges all of the album’s ideas into about eleven minutes.
With so many different ideas in play, The Voices Within is one of those albums that is a little on the demanding side for a listener. The three-piece comprising Fading Aeon have no shortage of creativity – or at the least a very large book of melodeath influences to plumb – and they seem more focused here than ever in cementing their status as long-song writers. The ambition is to be commended and for the most part Fading Aeon do manage to keep things interesting throughout The Voices Within. Surprisingly enough, one of the longer songs even comes up as one of the highlights, as “Defying The Path Foregone” and “…Dust To Dust” both seem to be the ones that truly shine among the tracks on Fading Aeon‘s latest release.
The Voices Within does what you want a sophomore release to do: It executes upon the ideas and potential that were hinted at on the debut. While you have your entire life to write your debut, focusing on the ideas and finding what works for a followup is a much harder task and Fading Aeon have managed to do pretty well here. While they do stumble when their ambitions get loftier than the material available to them here, Fading Aeon are doing pretty well in planting their feet more firmly in the epic-length melodeath world.