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Marked by djinni fire - 78%

Xlxlx, July 16th, 2017

Metal influenced by Middle Eastern music is nothing new. It started with old schoolers such as Artillery, and their use and abuse of the phrygian scale. And, in the present day, it continues with the likes of Melechesh and Myrath, who have gone far beyond simply playing Arabic-flavoured riffs, fully integrating the sounds of the shifting sands into metal. Aeternam, a crew of young Québécois metalheads, clearly belong to the latter category, as demonstrated by Disciples of the Unseen, a vicious little beast of a debut record. Seemingly inspired by the likes of Nile, Behemoth, and Septicflesh, these men aren't content with simply pummeling the listener into submission, throwing a lot of melodic flair and a tinge of tasteful orchestral theatrics into the mix. There's still a lot pummeling things into submission though!

After a short instrumental intro, we get right into the thick of things with the awe-inspiring melodic tremolos and relentless blasting of "Angel Horned". This opening musical salvo is an excellent demonstration of what appears to be the archetypical Aeternam song; a condensed shot of luscious melodic work, contrasted with roaring Nergalesque growls and delightfully skillful drumming. Truly, Antoine Guertin is no joke, and the way he plays around with his kit between furious bursts of pounding showcases a highly talented man, who the producer was very wise to put so high and clear in the mix. Beyond the percussionist spectacle though, there are also bits and pieces of experimentation worth mentioning, such as the graceful use of layered clean vocals in songs like "Esoteric Formulae" and "The Coronation of Set". Frontman Achraf Loudiy has a surprising knack for pleasantly emotional crooning, and he puts it to great use in Disciples, allowing for a much richer and varied vocal performance than one might think on first impression. In fact, between Loudiy's clean singing and the band's penchant for occasional eruptions of more traditionally flavoured metal riffing, one can't help but feel what seems to be a slight power metal scent wafting from the album's depths, of all things. This detracts nothing from the predominance of the deathlike brutality that is clearly the band's focus, but the mix of influences is certainly interesting, and if intentional, handled with enough subtlety and taste so as to not feel gimmicky. Rancid melodic death/power metal this is not.

As far as consistency goes, Disciplines has no problem holding the listener's interest all the way up to and including "Goddess of Masr"; clearly the centerpiece here, what with the sheer amount of work and care that went into its construction. The entire band is on fire here, firing on all cylinders, with a rabid gallop of a main riff that's tailor-made for headbanging and a devilish tremolo melodies under the verses, culminating into an textbook of example of what tension and release in music is supposed to sound like. After that though, everything takes a bit of a nosedive, with a much weaker closing stretch that leaves one rather unsatisfied after the rapturous barrage that was the journey up until the point "Goddess of Masr" ended. There are still some great riffs and bits of playing here and there, particularly in "Ouroboros", but it's simply not the same, quality-wise.

Despite a weak conclusion though, Aeternam's first outing is still definitely worth picking up. It owes its appeal to a combination of tight, professional players, hooky and creative songwriting, and a very well defined artistic vision. If you wanna see something as easy to fuck up as symphonic/folky death metal done right, then you could do much, much worse than spinning Disciples of the Unseen.