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Refinement and the rearing of magnificence - 80%

autothrall, November 6th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Code666 Records

Having not had the most favorable reaction to the first Aenaon record Cendres et Sang (2011), I was hesitant to check out its followup. But thanks to at least three individuals who prodded and poked me in the right direction, that has changed, and I'm glad it has, because Extance reduces its predecessor to a mere stain within the first three tracks, and its another robust example of how Greece has developed this worthy, dynamic black metal scene in which bands seem to foster and excel in individual sounds without having to invade each others' wheelhouses for anything more than a few fleeting aesthetics. That's not to insist that Extance consists of a wealth of novel ideas we haven't heard, but how the band fashions it all together and plays to its strengths results in an inspired, professional, memorable experience which immediately inverted my sense of indifference from the prior outing.

The piano intro to this was so outstanding that I wouldn't have been put off if the entire album had been just that...but for the most part the material sort of reminded me of Moonspell's louder and more black metal-oriented material...not just from the similarities in that loud, fulsome rasp, but also the pacing, desperation and melodic structures they're writing. All of the sweeping Romantic abandon, with none of the Goth cheese that other band embraces. I suppose you could also name drop Rotting Christ here for the general tempos, but the vocals are slightly different and Aenaon cultivates a more progressive, modern edge. They're also a lot more eclectic, Solefald-eclectic; using saxophones, harmonica, cellos and other instruments to great success, since they sort of weave them into the black metal terrain as if they always belonged, rather than just writing these boisterous 'look at how different we are' pieces where you feel like you're witnessing two entirely different bands grappling over album space. The entire flow of Extance is fluid, the dynamics shift from soaring moments of cleaner vocals used like wind over the strident riffs and hammering double bass, to outright blasts to the face which eschew none of the richness elsewhere. The band even incorporates a few passages of djent-like chugging progressions ("Closer to Scaffold"), but the guitar tone and how it fits into the remainder of the song make all the difference in it coming off lame or contrived.

I'm not entirely in love with the vocals, they definitely seem a little overbearing and lack the eerie and evil traits I enjoy most in the genre...but technically they are well executed and there are plenty of points at which other tones, backing barks, etc are used to layer and vary them so they don't feel one track. Some of the higher pitched female howls (as in "Funeral Blues") seem a little forced, strange but not necessarily in a good way. Pianos and keys are consistently great, beyond just that intro or the later instrumental ("Algernon's Decadence"), but it's the drumming and constantly mutating patterns of rhythm guitars and melodies that achieve the strongest presence here, rendering a potential 65 minute overlong nightmare into something pretty easily digested in full. The riffs do not have a perfect ratio of catchiness or inventiveness, and I'd hesitate to dub this the band's 'masterpiece', but to me it seemed like all the components they had meddled with on their debut have been reconfigured into something which is a far more coherent and compelling listen, especially the enormous closer "Palindrome" which is an engaging 13 minutes. You'll find no reluctance here to dive straight in to whatever they come up with next.


Stellar Master Elite - 95%

dase1943, March 23rd, 2014

Aenaon are definitely an innovative band! Their new album “Extance” is an amazing release of world class. The members, coming from central Greece, created a colossus that will be remembered as a monument in Greek metal music. Their progressive black metal gives you the idea of it as being the evolution of a vision that humbly exists behind the curtains for years and now shines through Aenaon.

Their influences reflect the progress of black metal: Solefald, Enslaved, the insanely inspired Dodheisgard, Sigh and the progressive group from the creator of Emperor Ihsahn, are some of the pioneers of the monolithic movement that, once being a standard in style, today comes to change everything in the metal horizon. The traditional progressive metal keeps progressing on a slow pace, as most changes now come from elsewhere… The album from Aenaon bears this change and redefines the term “progressive”, something that, from a very unique style of music played by world class experimental players, became staple and full of wasted mimicry to create instant impressions.

The ace in the band’s sleeve is their full gnosis of the sound they serve (progressive black metal/ avant-garde metal) as well as the extreme sound in general, combined with a high playing ability. Having this as a base, they are not afraid to pump the songs with layers of sound and ideas. The listener can hear the best elements of prog black metal march, with most influences coming from the big Norwegian bands. The riffology of Ved Buens Ende/Virus, as well as of Thorns and modern Mayhem, is here. They are also greatly influenced by Shining, inviting guest musicians on cello, sax and harmonica. That being said, melody is certainly nothing to come second. For example, some guitar solos have a rock vibe on them. This whole sound orgy shows that the creators of the band have a huge spherical knowledge of progressive music all around.

The album is flooded with ideas, inspiration and an aura of creativity. Aenaon managed to enhance their sound with elements from various genres, rather successfully and with pure mastery. They achieve a multidimensional style, with a jazzy vibe and supreme technique. In its 66 minutes, “Extance” is an adventurous and exciting album with extreme depth, making each listening to reveal something new and different. Just give yourselves to it.