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And so the accumulation of records that could be categorised under 'interesting' continues. Another band of which I previously did not even know the name, "a.O.a." is the second release by the Finn's Arthemesia. As is the norm, the constituents of this part black metal, part ambient and part pagan/viking project exhibit an incestuous relationship with other bands from the country - you'll find members of Ensiferum, Moonsorrow and even Lordi here, and that's just in the current band members.
Though not evident in the words you'll actually hear or understand in listening to "a.O.a.", the topics of shamanism, magic(k) and occultism have had a baring on the music as in songs like the title track and "Patheme" spirited leads counteract against atmospheric keyboard sounds and a variety of different vocal styles to create an album much deeper than most bland BM affairs. These styles, including the semi-shriek of Emperor's Ihsahn, the more standard blackened growl found in Thyrfing for example, and frequently Quorthon-esque clean and spoken vocals result in a colourful palette that lends itself well to the diversity of elements in "a.O.a.". Resembling my feelings in review for recent Solstafir and Bilocate records, a number of listens are required for an understanding of what's on offer here as Arthemesia aren't afraid to slow the pace and let introspective guitars show the way forward as in the "The Noble Elements", showcasing songwriting skills absent in most others playing in a similar field.
As anyone is inclined to do, at different stages over a number of listens a whole plethora of notifiable bands reveal their influences on this work of Arthemesia's. The key is viking-era Bathory in the clean vocals of "Patheme" but reading between the lines will reveal Emperor, Katatonia, Wolves In The Throne Room, Windir, Zyklon, among others. Nowhere more evident is the inclusion of numerous influences than in closing track "Liber Omega (& The Macrocosm Manifest III)" where speed metal, jazz, black metal and stunning ornate guitar leads sit together beautifully, riding on the accurate and expansive production work allowing all these factions to be heard without suffering through over-powering keyboards or clicky drums, so often the headache in a progressive extreme metal record. If you thought bands like iwrestledabearonce knew how to collect disparaging sounds into one song, you are sadly mistaken. "Liber Omega..." sees these sections blend seamlessly into each other, rather than having to be separated by defined 'chapters' and mid-song pauses.
Being the first full collection of songs from members of more well-known bands in 8 years lends this band and album the feel of a side-project, but if the members of Arthemesia ever felt the need to quit their bill-paying bands there exists a thoroughly progressive and professional band waiting in the wings to soar them to new heights. This is another excellent release from a band noone would have considered being a nomination for a spot in this year's top 10 album releases.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
I heard "Devs Iratvs" a while back, and had auto-searches on eBay for months trying to find this album. FINALLY one came up and after a couple weeks of shipping, it arrived. I opened the packaging as quickly as I could and went to fetch my old CD player because the drives on my PC were freaking out and it wouldn't show up, which added to the suspense. So I put it on, crossed my fingers and hoped that what I was about to hear would make my head explode, and I'm greeted with a very slow, long, pointless intro that does nothing. At first I thought, "Well, that's okay. They probably just changed their sound. Now hear comes the real thing!" Up until then, I had kept my expectations low so that when I heard it it would sound just that much more awesome. But as I heard the first couple minutes of the second track I noticed that even my low expectations hadn't been met. Maybe they needed to be lower, but in any case, I thought that what I was hearing sucked. And as I tried to pay attention to the guitars and atmosphere to try and find something awesome that the rest of the song could build on, I noticed that it sounds like they listened to a Drudkh album from across a crowded subway and wrote down the notes that they heard. Totally lame. I guess that's what I should have expected since Jari isn't in the group anymore, but really, if you liked Devs-Iratvs, unless you're an OBSESSED Drudkh fan, then you probably won't like this album at all. If you want a good black metal album check out Cryptic Wintermoon's The Age of Cataclysm or something. a. O. a. has now made it obligatory for me to add the "old-" before I say that I like "Arthemesia." Piss. I wish I hadn't spent ten bucks on it.