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Empyrium is a band whose act just never got old. Although they only released 4 albums, two metal and two folk, they definitely left behind a big following of fans of their majestic and melodic music. Their debut album, A wintersunset, perfectly captures everything in the band's musical style. The music is not intended for headbanging, and it isn't fast, but it just delivers every other aspect overloaded with emotions.
I won't say too much about the production for this review, because this is the kind of music where the overall sound is most important. You don't need to listen to just one aspect of the sound, you can just sit back and appreciate all of it at once. But I will say that every instrument is very easy to hear, and certain instruments stand out during certain sections. Mostly, you hear the synths and guitars melding music and emotion better than any other instrument. Anyway, production doesn't matter much, because this is music that you can really feel. At times it's sad, at others it's beautifully uplifting.
The intro and outro of the album are perfect. Two songs that are either happy or sad depending on your mood. They're simple, but full of emotion, as a lot of Empyrium's music tends to be. The rest of the album perfectly balances you, using violin-esque synths and guitars to blend into a perfect melody together, with all of the other instruments underlining everything evenly. The vocals are really the only blemish here, although they are still far from being considered bad. There are two types of vocals. An operatic, melodic tone is used most often throughout, which again, is nice, but I think the singer is a little too over-dramatic with them, although that's only a minor flaw. The raspy vocals aren't used half as much, but they are decent. Fortunately, they don't overtake the music or wreck the emotions. I have heard better, but I've definitely heard worse.
Although this album isn't exactly done by a band who can play their instruments wickedly, the music is slow and calm, and it isn't needed. The music is straightforward, with single-note guitar solos and steady, even drumming, but I still really like the atmosphere and the musical composition too much for me to use that as a point against this album
All in all, I think this music is just great. Listening to any of the 7 songs helps me feel better about things gone wrong in my life, and I just feel so happy listening to the album. It leaves you with a really good feeling, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to expand a bit from the screaming and thrashing and just relax.
I recommend "Under Dreamskies," "The Franconian Woods in Winter's Silence", and "The Yearning".
Originally written on spirit-of-metal.com under the username "InfinityZero".
Empyrium's first full-length begins with a soft folky keyboard passage, called "Moonromanticism", and had a nice light melody, and jumps directly into "Under Dreamskies".
This song starts off with operatic deep and clean vocals, and heavy, heavy synth. There is very little else heard besides the keyboards, and guitar playing singular notes to compliment the keys. After a few minutes, the song slows dramatically and a new passage on synth is heard and black metal vocals kick in. A very nice melody, that inspires melancholy is slightly modified again when the clean singing, which reminds me a lot of Moonspell's "The Antidote". It took me a minute to remember that, I knew I had heard something like that before. There are a couple more bridges with keyboard, and returns to the original riff, with some minor soloing, and added flair to the original keyboard line. Synth jumps back and forth to this and the doomy riff, and slows quite a bit, in an attempt (in my opinion) to inspire a climatic type effect. This is carried for the remainder of the song, and the first of 3 10+ minute songs are over.
The song "The Franconian Woods In Winter's Silence" starts out with a very nice dark and doomy synth passage, with the Moonspell-ish vocals. Once the black-ish vocals start, it reminds me a lot of "Bitter Ist's Dem Tod Zu Dienen" by Dornenreich. It's a nice song, the melody is good, but the synth is very one-dimensional, and very overpowering. The drums are quite far back in the mix, and the guitars are just a hum in comparison to the keys, and does very little to enhance the melody. Don't get my wrong, it's a beautiful song, but I think that it could have been a lot better with more assistance from the other instruments. They are being played, they might as well be heard. But the same unending riff is played for over 10 minutes, and gets quite redundant by the end.
I was going to try to do a song-by-song approach to this review because there are not too many songs in this album, but I soon realized that I was getting a little repetitive. A synth-driven melody moves into a clean vocal passage, and another synth bridge to another synth melody...ad nauseum.
I enjoy this album a lot, but there is not a lot of variation. I could really not see a reason why some of these songs should be 10 minutes, except to be for "epic" reasons...Every song on this album could have just as easily been 5 minutes, and cut out some of the redundancy.
There is so much synthesizer, that it drowns out the guitar, and drums almost completely. That is my biggest problem with it. Even bands like Dimmu Borgir that have bombastic synth passages leave room for the other members of the band. Here, however, a simple violin sample is used....not an orchestra, or anything operatic. Just a simple stringed instrument, and it is this that supercedes everything else. There are also very little vocals to help carry the song, and it is left up to...yep....you guessed it...the synth. Another issue with the keyboard, is that the melodies are regurgitated with minimal change, and when you have a very repetitive song that clocks in at over 10 minutes, a very annoying circumstance unfolds....You get sick of it...there just isn't enough variation in this album. All the songs run together, and there is no variation whatsoever in the playing of the main melody maker, the synthesizer.
The guitar work is decent, but very difficult to hear. The only time that it is easily discernable is when the keyboard melody fades, or when the guitar duels the keys. Otherwise, it's just a low hum in the background. There is not much to say about the guitars because they are all but inaudible.
The drums are basic, and very ordinary. Once again, the problem of being too far back in the mix is readily apparent, and results in barely being able to hear the snare, cymbal work is all but drowned out, and there are very few times when the bass drum is easily detected, usually it sounds kind of like a click (comparable to Nick Barker in CoF, but obviously not as fast), and that is a very rare occurance to hear.
The vocals are nothing special. Very few and far between are there any vocals anyways, it's mostly instrumental passages, with...well nevermind. You already know...Anyways, the deep, melancholy vocals; or at least that is what I think was trying to be accomplished here, are okay at best. They seem very forced, and don't change much, because I think that the depth of his singing is quite out of his normal range, and shows little variation. Also, the black metal vocals are nothing memorable, typical black metal rasps.
Overall, a very average album for a wonderful band. There are a lot of other groups that performed this style much better than Empyrium. They seemed to have tried to be very epic and powerful, but fell short because they just aren't talented enough to do it. Either that, or the folk-influenced style they play later is more their forte. Whatever the case, this album is good, but redundant and there is too much focus on one aspect, which leads to everything else taking a back burner. Unfortunately, this sabotages the effectiveness, the induction of melancholy to the listener, and leaves me yearning for more.
This album is probably one of the most beautiful i have ever heard.
The music is slow paced epic synth driven folky doom with some black metal touches every now and again.
Overall the music on this album is very well concived, the idea was to create a soundtrack to the beauty of nature, and they did exactly that. The music envokes visions of vast forests, deep valleys, high mountains and great European landscapes.
The guitar tone is a reasonably low treble sound with enough reverb to give it a great presence without taking over the sound of the whole album and ruining the epic atmosphere, it is mainly played in a classical way with less focus on riffs and more of a focus on hight string playing. There are also acoustic guitars comming in every now and again that give a great folky feeling and accentuate the sound to new levels when they are played.
The synths are what make this album so epic, they are done in a way that does not ruin the music but enhances it, they are very much set on one sound that is a strings section, they follow the guitars along and help to further evoke the visons of natures beauty with the reverb and low treble sound.
The drumming is not amazingly technical, nor is it fast, but actually fits perfectly to the music. The beats are mainly slow 8 beats that lead the synth and guitars on their journey. The sound is good, very organic and fitting for the music.
The vocals are usually doom vocals in a spoken way, similar to my dying bride's. Occasionally they will change to a black metal sound to accentuate the right parts, but not over powering the music. But the vocals on this album arent the important part, it is the music most of all.
There are also some flutes and tambourines in the more folky parts, these sound perfect and work well with the vision this band aims to create with this album.
I give this album 100% due to the fact that they have achived every goal they aimed for when creating this album. Also due to it being one of my favourite albums of all time.