Album Review: Aspherium – The Veil of Serenity
Band: Aspherium (Norway)
Album: The Veil of Serenity (2011)
Genre: Darkened / Melodic / Blackened Death Metal (?)
Closing in on year end, most sites, mags and blogs have started publishing their year-end lists. The Top 10’s of Best Albums of 2011 will rain down on you like a volley of arrows. And with a bit of luck also The Baboon will publish some kind of list. But fuck me sideways, are we glad that we waited a bit with publishing our list! Aspherium comes straight out of fuckin’ nowhere with it’s The Veil of Serenity album.
The band hails from the Norwegian town of Moss, not too far from Oslo. Them being Norwegian I was expecting some ass-ripping Black Metal, with enough blackness to make a black hole feel ashamed and enough evil to make Satan look like a schoolgirl with colorful braids. To some of our regular or irregular writers that would be very preferable per se, but not to me. Darkness doesn’t get it up for me and neither do tremolo picking and poor production.
Not that I couldn’t get it up on any song or band employing these ingredients, it’s just that it’d have to be combined with at least two of the following elements; groove, melody and intelligent songwriting. With Aspherium I find all of this. And more.
When you look on Encyclopaedia Metallum – at the band’s seemingly rather obsolete profile page – you’ll see that the band is classified as Metalcore / Melodeath. That is both incredibly inaccurate and partly true. One: the material on The Veil of Serenity is miles and miles above most Metalcore’s quality, same for Melodeath. And it’s all just way too fuckin’ Metal to deserve this qualification. In fact, it’s miles and miles above most Metal in general!
Two: although you will not come across them much during the first few songs of the record, there’ll be a significant number of ”typical” Metalcore riffs in songs further into it. The type that is catchy melodic lead, characterized by repeating bodies with varying ending, over mildly melodic, chugging rhythm strokes. It’s just that these riffs are so strongly encapsulated by everything else that, unless you start listening to the constituent components, the overall result really doesn’t feel anything like Metalcore.
When The Veil of Serenity kicks off with its title track, the first thoughts I had were that I was indeed right with my crude generalization of Norwegian Extreme Metal. The silence present before pressing play is so incredibly violently beaten to bloody bits of meat that the Scythe Wielding Angel couldn’t do a better job. There are raging blast beats and death chords aplenty. It’s like all hell set loose from containment in a matchbox.
This excessive darkness doesn’t last through the record, but it will stick for at least a bunch of songs. Rising from the Shadows, the second song on the album, is more Death Metallic, more aggressive instead of threatening. It’s more snarling and also contains some really good and catchy groovy riffs. But it’s still quite dark and serious.
The Revelator is the first song to give away that the band might have something else in store as well. Its starts off still pretty fuckin’ dark, with tremolo picking on the lower strings and some really deep riffage. The kind that’s brutal and chugging. But with a track duration of nearly eight minutes and a half, the song just has to contain a turning point. And it does.
Nearly halfway into it a melodic bridge of rhythm guitar starts over which a very tightly and dynamically guitar solo is played. It’s nearly Rocky, with harmonic bends and shit to make it interesting. One of the finest moments on the record. When the solo finishes there’s room for a clean, contemplating acoustic break and then more soloing. I won’t tell you how it ends, ‘cause that would spoil it, but know that there’s a lot more to it still, including some of the most brutal growls on the record. This is a must-listen!
Dawn of the Apocalypse gives us more darkness and brain-fuckery, but then, all of a sudden, As We Slither pops up. The fifth track on the release contains more melody and catchiness than all of the other songs together and it’s definitely the most Metalcore of the lot. It’s also probably my favorite song, next to The Revelator, and it really is impossible to keep your head still when it’s playing.
The song also seems to mark a turning point in the whole album. Almost as if from here on songs were written by a different songwriter. Songs turn lighter and more Melodeath-like, whereas the album’s first 20+ minutes were all doom and blackness. That’s not to say these elements don’t return in the second half, but they are of a more accentuating role and don’t set the scene anymore.
Blackpoint Millenium is introduced by some movie-score-ish symphonics but is then followed by calm but genuinely heavy, steady striding riff-work with a certain apocalyptic perseverance. This one is probably the most pure Death Metal of them all, but it will still contain plenty of breakpoints and soothing moments. Vanguard of the Great Journey is dark again, at least for the first half and it manages to deprive one of all hope at a certain point, with brass elements announcing the coming of doom. But then the song’s second half is ripe with melody and melancholy again.
The only minor negative I can discover in this release is in the closing track, entitled Fury of the Flesh. There is a slow, clean – but not acoustic – section towards the end that features some harmonic clean vocals that are not off. But somehow you can tell they would’ve been if there hadn’t been a bit of polishing on them. But let’s be honest here: if the only critique is on something that isn’t actually there, doesn’t that mean that we’re actually dealing with an exceptionally high quality album?
Yes, it does. The Veil of Serenity is an absolute gem and it contains everything I’ve ever searched for in Metal. It’s highly varied in moods and emotions and will take you all over the place. But it’s also very distinct, a very own product with its very own sound. The production is fantastic, the mix perfect, with all instruments claiming their place. The music is brilliantly written and will keep even the most decomposing listeners occupied for weeks. And then there’s the execution: spotless, dynamic, invigorating, exciting: this thing’s winning!
My Grade: 9.5/10
Buy this when:
- you’re looking for some cross-genre, visionary Extreme Metal
- you’re looking for your new favorite album of 2011