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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