(DGR won the cordial wrestling match among us NCS slaves for the fun of reviewing the eagerly awaited second album by Aetherian, just recently released by Lifeforce Records.)
If this is your first exposure to Aetherian, with no idea where the group hailed from or what they looked like, we’d be curious what would happen if you hit play on the group’s newest album At Storms Edge and tried to guess those answers.
We wouldn’t fault you one bit for looking into the colder European climes for your answer, as Aetherian are especially good at the sort of melancholy-infused doom hybrid that has worked its way into the melodeath scene proper over the past few years. We’d even forgive you if you too had thought of the same vein that Insomnium mine their music from being threaded throughout At Storm’s Edge. But Aetherian don’t come from the cold north.
Greece has long been a creative hotspot within the heavy metal world and Aetherian are the latest to add to the nation’s rich creative coffers with this sophomore album.
We actually have quite the long history with the band, having followed them since 2015 – if not earlier, given that for a while they shared ground with the similarly moody Mist Of Nihil – and actually have a review penned for their first album The Untamed Wilderness. Since then, we’ve covered nearly everything that Aetherian have done, so it makes sense that a couple of weeks after its release via Lifeforce Records, we’d find ourselves knocking at the doorstep of At Storm’s Edge.
Traditionally a lot of expectations come with a followup album, especially when that album is the younger sibling of a very promising first full-length. If you’re sticking to the traditional musical model – one of many paths, because we have often shared our appreciation for those who proceed to launch themselves in a completely different direction – you’d expect a refinement of the group’s sound as well as an expansion of ideas.
If you’re going to chart for similar waters again, as listeners we’ve come to expect the ‘more but better’, which probably sounds a lot nicer than the seemingly contradictory ‘bigger in scope/smaller in execution’ that some of those scenarios describe. Perceived faults ironed out, yet the adventure to become more grandiose.
At Storm’s Edge does just that though, with Aetherian sounding impressively polished on their second album and also managing to pack some criminally catchy earworms within its forty-three minutes. The album includes some gigantic moments within its songs, weaving together multiple guitar leads and plenty of melodeath gallops that could equally see the band riding in a pack alongside plenty of their melodeath peers. They’ve got the rhythmic march down to a science on At Storm’s Edge, while also spreading their wings further into the fiery atmospheres of a band like Wolfheart.
Long story short, At Storm’s Edge travels to a lot of musical worlds in its eight songs but also manages to keep many a gloomier melodeath fan sated throughout.
Equally impressive is that in the six years between releases the lineup for Aetherian hasn’t really changed much. They’ve had a few musicians rotate into the second guitarist role, but for the most part, the Aetherian that was present on the Tales Of Our Times EP in 2015 is still here on At Storm’s Edge. You still have the dual vocal attack from the band as well as the solid rhythm section present.
At Storm’s Edge is a release where the time between albums feels like the music was sitting in the forge, with the band slowly hammering away at it like Hḗphaistos and working on their musical blueprint the whole time. There’s not really a moment wasted within the album as songs move from one powerful chorus, interwoven melody, and glory-filled guitar solo to the next.
This is an album swimming in glorious guitar leads that will bore their way into your conciousness after a while. Though the fact that “ΠΥΡ ΑΕΝΑΟΝ” and the more martially driven “Army of Gaia” were early singles may have helped promote their familiarity, they seem to have taken up residence in the empty halls of your writer’s headspace, having noticed the vacancy sign, long since burned out. Arriving right after the intoductory instrumental “Forgotten Oaths” means those two are also going to be the first impression people get of At Storm’s Edge as a whole. It’s helpful, then, that both are equally strong songs, as is the soaring “Soulriver” – since we’re talking early releases and impressions – much later on in the run time.
Diving deeper still into the gyre of At Storm’s Edge, the mid-section of the disc is where the influence of groups like Insomnium truly shines through – the mid-section of “Advent Dreams” being particularly suited to slot right into the former’s playbook. The run of the title “At Storm’s Edge” song, “Advent Dreams“, and “Astral Breath” makes for an excellent trio mid-way through the release and contains the most ‘epic’ moments of the whole album.
Granted, those are also among the longer songs on At Storm’s Edge too; most of the tracks range between four to six minutes on this album and those three in particular start scraping right up against that six-minute mark every chance they get. Translation: Aetherian take those near six-minutes and fill them with as much swelling background synth, up-front guitar, and epic-melody as they can, especially when the band play off the strengths of an opener like what “Astral Breath” provides.
They continue to go back to it as well, utilizing that particular guitar run again, about three minutes in, to close out the chorus of the song. “At Storm’s Edge” meanwhile, dances between those two polarities while also being the moodier of the three songs. It actually leads off the pack. so it’s a little bit like starting at the convergence point of two streams and then spending the next two songs wandering up each one afterward just to experience the whole area fully.
It’s stereotypical to say, but At Storm’s Edge is a matured album, taking what started on Tales Of Our Times six years back and growing it by leaps and bounds. Aetherian were ‘promising’ back when that album released, and At Storm’s Edge more than fulfills the promise. They’ve fully ensconced themselves in the melodeath world and are already strong enough to stand alongside their more famous peers.
Yes, there are certainly shades of a handful of other groups – the Wolfheart/Insomnium crossing of the ley lines being especially strong – but melodeath is also a genre where a lot of people have always started by standing on the shoulders of giants. The blueprint is well laid out, and often the execution of a ‘good’ disc at this point comes down to how well they follow it and what they do with it to leave their own mark.
At Storm’s Edge is strong enough to be Aetherian leaving their own mark on the genre, and if nothing else, it should qualify them to land on quite a few listening lists if you haven’t been part of their esteemed club already.