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Peak of human creativity - 100%

Bent__Canoe, September 7th, 2019

Just by the beautiful album art and band logo, Aquilus manages to stand out from the rest. I got into this band a while ago, before I was into any sort of extreme or obscure genres of metal, long before I was into atmo black, yet I still loved it then, and still love it now, as it holds #3 spot in my all time favorite albums list currently.

The seemless blending of styles in this album is incredible. While listening to this album, you forget you are even listening to a metal album because you get so lost in the atmosphere. The mixture of atmospheric black metal, folk, and classical creates such a beautiful sound, and with genius compositions like these, makes for a truly genius album.

The guitars are a highlight of this album, both electric and acoustic. The black metal sections have incredible riffs, such as the opening riff in “Latent Thistle”, delivering chaotic and groovy riffing with intense growls over it. There is also some incredible lead work and melodic guitar soloing on songs such as “Loss” (see 7:30).the acoustic guitars are a brilliant addition, with some highlights including the lead in to the black metal section in “Nihil” with an ominous and suspenseful acoustic guitar riff as well as in the joyful folky section at the end of “Latent Thistle”, which is possibly my favorite moment off the album, having one of the most beautiful melody/chord progression combos ever, and closing out an otherwise darker song perfectly.

The keyboards and piano are the other major highlight of this album. Keyboard and piano melodies dance around frequently and are a major compositional component of Griseus. Some highlights include the piano intro to, and the main symphonic melody of “The Fawn”, however the keys and piano have their highlights on every song.

The vocals on Griseus could be described as black metal vocals, though they are quite unique. They blend well with the distorted guitars and bring a darker, sometimes evil, atmosphere to the music, as well as a lot of overall intensity.

The drums in this album aren’t amazing on their own, but they support each song perfectly, and have their moments to shine. Overly complex drums would have hurt the album since there is already so much going on throughout most the album.

So, when you have stellar compositions, excellent stylistic and production choices, perfect instrumental execution, loads of atmosphere, and nature themes, you get one of the most emotionally moving pieces of music ever, which is exactly what Aquilus did with Griseus. While Aquilus’ previous release, the Arbor EP, was amazing, this album shows tons of growth and improvement in songwriting. One could only hope to ever reach the level of creative genius that Aquilus possesses.

Favorite songs: all of them

Elegant mixture of symphonic neofolk and epic melodic black metal - 80%

kluseba, February 5th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2011, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

This release has the term pretentiousness written all over it. We get a Latin band name and album title. The cover artwork seems to be taken from a painting. The song titles have a poetic touch. The song lengths are challenging and opening an album with a track hitting the fourteen-minute mark is something one would rather expect from a veteran progressive metal band. This release is a one-man project by Horace Rosenqvist who calls himself Waldorf and who quite simply recorded everything. This record reeks of a loner putting together obscure soundscapes in his parents' basement like in the not-so-good old Myspace days.

However, Aquilus' Griseus is actually a very solid album that deserves some of the praise it has gotten over the past few years. The record has an epic sound based upon elegant symphonic keyboard passages that would make this album a perfect video game soundtrack. The occasional acoustic guitars also blend in with relaxed melodies. The choirs are scarcely used which makes them very efficient.

These uplifting symphonic neofolk passages are contrasted by melodic black metal elements. This release offers a few cold guitar riffs that add some grit to keep the long tracks together. The harsh vocals sound quite unusual, being almost breathed or whispered at times. They lack power in my opinion but certainly have a quite unique style. Even people who usually despise black metal vocals could appreciate them in the context of this release because they aren't overused and always contribute cleverly to the atmosphere.

Despite the massive song lengths and a total running time just below eighty minutes, the record grabs you with its mysterious atmosphere right from the start and manages to keep things imaginative until the very end. One shouldn't listen to this album while being tired though because the calm passages will soon make you fall asleep but if you actively listen to this record with your headphones on, it will take you on a wondrous voyage.

In the end, Aquilus' Griseus isn't the masterpiece some people claim it to be but it is an elegant mixture of symphonic neofolk and epic melodic black metal that is perhaps best compared to Summoning but certainly has its very own style. It might be one of the most imaginative metal records of the decade. I couldn't listen to this release quite regularly because of its massive length and at times sleep-inducing vibes but it certainly is a creative discovery I like to come back to from time to time.

Otherworldly - 100%

CrnaMisa, September 18th, 2017

This is it. This is what I have been looking for since I discovered metal. To be honest, there are many metal albums that I find perfect, but this one brought the term of perfection to a whole new level. It's a unique mixture of atmospheric black metal, neo-classicism and folk metal; and the neo-classical note played the most important role in the whole album. Piano sections create somehow melancholic and dreamy ambience, and string instruments contribute to the more epic and magnificent sound.

Almost an hour and a half of a pure eargasm starts with slow-paced synth sections in the opener song Nihil, which sound like a rainy autumn day, not in a depressive, rather a peaceful and somnolent way. The main riff progressively becomes louder and more intense as the song is coming close to the end, and it finally escalates in an epic, battle riff that brings the listener to delirium and later changes to a melody which sounds calm on the surface, but some premonition of fear, neuroticism and turbulence hidden behind can clearly be heard. I would compare it to a calm before a storm.

As the album goes on, there are continual exchanges between slow piano parts intertwined with other classical instruments and heavy, neurotic black metal entanglements that sound like something between symphonic and atmospheric black metal and maybe even DSBM. The only song in which black metal is more noticeable than neo-classicism is Latent Thistle, where some parts remind of IX Equilibrium by Emperor (in a positive way, of course– I'm not saying it's a rip-off).

Vocals are mostly growled through the whole album, but they are subtle and appear only for creating atmosphere because the emphasis is mostly on instrumentals. Growls dominate only at the end of the song Loss, developing an evil and severe sound. Instrument sections are so complex that they inhibit repetitive sound; great examples are Smokefall and In Lands of Ashes. Both songs are fairly long and vocals rarely appear in them, but tempo and dynamics alterations, such as use of various instruments make them sound inspiring, atmospheric and simply beautiful.

It's almost impossible to believe that only one man could make such a masterpiece as Griseus. Concerning all the talent that was required for composing and playing great range of instruments, and the awesomeness of the final product, I think that Griseus is too underrated and too little known for what it is. However, it's not music that would be acceptable for an average listener, or for headbanging. It's music for when you're lying in a warm bed, or on rustling leaves in the forest. And while you're enjoying every second of this brilliant art, it regenerates your soul.

A neoclassical masterpiece. - 97%

Kritik, June 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2011, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Aquilus is a one man band coming from Melbourne, Australia. Under the banner of this project the artist has already done two demos and one EP before this first album. I personally don’t know about the precedent works from this project, but this album is an excellent introduction to the quite peculiar sound of this artist.

This album sound could be described by two different tangents. The first could have been the band Vision Bleak if they decided to put a lot more classical influence into their music. The second was Tim Burton’s movie music that isn’t afraid to go into even more extreme genres like black metal for example. I mention black metal because some passages of this release have all the details that described this style. These passages often possess blast beat drums, discordant guitars and other trademarks. The most impressive aspect was the omnipresence of many classical music instruments that always adds a lot to the intensity of the music within.

The better passages of this album are going to blow your mind. The entire 14 minutes of the first track was already a highlight the first time I listened to this release. After a brief introduction, we got one of the rare black metal influence passage on the release backed with an amazing amount of keyboard layers that sound more like a complete orchestra than anything else. At the fifth minute mark, all goes silent for about a second, and what follows are a very enchanting and calming guitar and piano passage. There was a lot of other incredible movements that follow, but I'm not able to give it justice by describing them here. Some Gregorian chants also complete this musical journey of a song.

The other two longest tracks on the album were also as incredible as the opener. Many complex movements that follow one another in a way that leaves you speechless. Since the album was mostly calm with some heavy passages, we still got one short track that was right in the middle between symphony and black metal. That song is named “Latent Thistle”. This song easily beats whatever have done Dimmu Borgir these past eight years and that band should be taking notes. There was one little surprise at the end of this song, but I won’t spoil it.

The last song of the release was the greatest moment of the album. The beginning of that song was more influence by new age, doom and black metal in equal parts. At two minutes 30 seconds, we got another great orchestral passage that last the next two minutes. We got many kinds of passage one after another that gave quite the roundup to the album before the conclusion of the release that started at the ninth minute. This final moment with this release were a pure orgasm for the ear. The piano was basically alone for the last eight minutes of the song and the result was outstanding.

In conclusion, classical music lover that don’t fear the extreme metal genre will most likely find a real gem with this release and I’m happy to see that there are already four other positive reviews for it.

Aquilus - Griseus - 99%

Dirty Dan 13, February 28th, 2014

Aquilus is a one-man band from Melbourne, Australia, yet after listening to Griseus it seems hard to believe that this entire album could have been written and recorded by only one person. The depth and attention to detail on this album are extremely impressive. Every aspect of the music found here seems as if it was meticulously crafted and placed precisely where it needed to be. No shortcuts appeared to have been taken with this album and it clearly shows. Griseus is truly an impressive piece of music many years in the making, and it was well worth it.

Griseus is an album that does not fall within one genre, but draws influences from black metal, folk, and classical music. Lush string sections, as well as meandering piano leads, guide the listener through the album just as much as overdriven guitars and black metal rasps do. Griseus also makes good use of acoustic guitars in various songs. This mix of styles and instruments is executed perfectly, never sounding awkward or forced. Soft acoustic sections trade off with violent black metal attacks seamlessly, causing everything to sound extremely smooth. Aquilus’s ability to mix these various music styles is uncanny and it is safe to say that Griseus is one of the most well-executed black metal/folk combination albums in existence.

The songs found within Griseus almost seem as if they were composed for the score to a film such as the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Each song experiences changes in mood throughout its running length, as if it was supposed to accompany a dramatic scene in a film. For example, standout track, “In Lands of Ashes”, changes from a somber mood, to a victorious sound, and then to a frantic and haunting section all within its 12 minute running length. This almost storytelling approach to composing the songs truly takes the music to a new level, entrapping the listener, making them want more. Fortunately the album is well over an hour long, so any listeners will be able to escape the real world for a while, as they get lost in this dense album.

The production value of Griseus should also be noted. Often, one-man bands have questionable production values, yet the sound on Griseus is clear and crisp. Every instrument is at the perfect level in the mix compared to the others and nothing is fuzzy or distorted. This clear production enhances the overall listening experience and enables the listener to hear every minute detail perfectly.

Epic is a word that is thrown around far too much referring to music these days, but Aquilus may have crafted an album that is deserving of that tag. A listener unaware of what this was may believe this is an excerpt from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Every melody is crafted so beautifully that the music conveys the wide array of emotions that could be found in an epic film. Nothing is drawn out to the point of boredom, as the mood is constantly changing. Waldorf, the genius behind Aquilus, has crafted a masterpiece of an album, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys atmospheric black metal, folk, or stunning musical compositions.

Originally wriiten for www.sputnikmusic.com

Teeming with atmosphere, dynamics, & melancholy. - 90%

Roswell47, July 23rd, 2012

A funny thing happened when I went to burn the promo files for Aquilus' Griseus onto a CD-R. When I added all of the songs to the burn list, the CD burning program told me that the disc was full. It didn't say that a little time was still available on the CD-R, nor did it say that an additional disc would be needed because the track list had run overtime. The burn list just read "full," plain and simple. This was something I had never experienced before and probably never will again. Who would bother to create an album that is the exact length of a CD? The answer my friends is "Aquilus," a one-man Australian "band" that over the course of seventy-nine minutes and fifty-five seconds will blow your mind with the fact that something so massive and powerful can be created by one person alone.

Aquilus has a very broad sound that draws from various dark sources such as Opeth, Agalloch, Anathema, and above all, cinematic soundtracks. In fact, within each "true song" there are long stretches of epic soundtrack music that effectively connect the entire album into one unbelievably intimidating and time-consuming piece. Griseus almost answers the question, "What would it sound like if Opeth created a soundtrack for an epic movie?"

To take the movie comparison further, approaching Griseus is like sitting down to watch an epic four-hour film. First, you better have a lot of time on your hands. Second, you will need to give the work your undivided attention. Much like the best movies of this sort, Griseus is highly enjoyable and completely immersive, but when it's over it leaves you totally exhausted. As with an impressive film, you may want to run out and tell your friends about the album. After they've experienced it too, you might want to discuss it's finer points. However also like a four-hour movie, Griseus is not the kind of work that you will return to on a daily basis. Who has the time to devote to an album like this very often? That is, if you intend to listen to Griseus in its entirety each time.

Musically, Griseus holds its own with the genre masters of dramatic dark metal and even carves its own niche. Sure, you can pick out influences in some of the songs. Opeth is one of the more consistently obvious ones. For example, the initial riff from the album's first track, "Nihil," sounds like it was lifted straight from an Opeth record. There are other brief moments that wouldn't feel out of place on an Agalloch album or a mid-period Anathema classic, but as a whole Griseus is a unique achievement. The sheer scope of the album, and the seamless blending of the soundtrack elements gives Griseus a one-of-a-kind feel. Words like "stunning," "magnificent," and "cinematic" all apply. To think that Griseus was created by one man is shocking since the songs are all so well-arranged. In addition, the flawless production helps underscore all of the albums strengths. Having said all of that, "grandiose," "pompous," and "self-indulgent" would also be fitting descriptors. It really all depends on the listener's perspective and attitude. This album is a conundrum because the very thing that gives it a unique voice and helps it to succeed, its sheer magnitude, is the same thing that will make it impenetrable for some listeners. A little restraint might have given the album more direct impact, but that's not really what Griseus is about.

One thing is for sure, the only way to truly appreciate Griseus is to spend a lot of time with it. And I mean a lot. This is an album for those who like to immerse themselves in the listening experience. Aquilus has given those listeners a rare and remarkable gift teeming with atmosphere, dynamics, and melancholy.

Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com

Review: Aquilus – Griseus (2011) - 95%

Midwinter Fires, April 28th, 2012

When it comes to metal the word “epic” is used a lot. In the case of the Australian black metal band Aquilus, epic is almost an understatement. The band draws from almost every conceivable sub-genre of black metal and even throws in elements from folk and neo-classical just to make sure all bases are covered on the debut full-length release Griseus. The songs are long. Very long. The one thing they are not is boring. That’s a very hard thing to accomplish but Aquilus does a great job of keeping things interesting. This is done by keeping repetition to a minimum instead moving between beautiful, well crafted song arrangements full of intricacy and atmosphere. Each one as beautiful as the last. I can’t even imagine the amount of time, work and creativity that went into the making of this album.

This has been one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever done. The album is just so intense and there’s so much to take in. Around every corner a new melody creates a new feeling or emotion. As one melody dies another just as beautiful is ready to take it’s place. Even the heavier side is darkly beautiful and a welcome contrast to the slower, more mellow stuff. The songs are so long that I can’t possible put into words or express the sounds and atmospheres I felt while listening to it. Griseus is an album that needs to be enjoyed properly by devoting a lot of time to it. It also needs to be listened to loudly on good speakers because there are times when the atmosphere is so thick and intense that it literally sends shivers up the spine. The louder it is the more intense the listening experience.

The first track is called “Nihil“. It’s a very powerful song brimming with atmosphere right from the start. A short keyboard intro gives way to some rather powerful atmospheric black metal. The vocals are laden with effects to create very evil sounding black metal growls which is the icing on the atmospheric cake. It’s dark, evil and thanks to the keyboards it’s oddly beautiful. The song moves through many arrangements with each one bringing slightly different feelings and emotions to the forefront. Just before the 3 minute mark a chorus of clean voices shines through for a short time before returning to the growls. After more arrangement changes the acoustic guitars make their first appearance and even though the song turns from away black metal it still manages to remain dark, beautiful and full of feeling. About 8 and a half minutes in one of the most powerful arrangements of the album quite literaway sends a chill through me. It’s epic and did I say it’s powerful? It happens again just before the 11 minute mark but this time it’s made even more powerful as heavy guitars and drums provide rhythm and atmosphere. More arrangement changes until the song settles down with soft keyboard driven melodies and acoustic guitars taking the song to it’s end… 14 minutes later.

The second track “Loss” starts off with melancholic pianos accompanied by acoustic guitars and drums. As the the song title suggests, it’s all very sorrowful. Just before the 2 minute mark the heaviness is back but no less depressing. The chorus of clean singing I like so much is back for a brief time as the song changes between atmospheric black metal arrangements thick with keyboards. There’s just so much it’s almost impossible to explain it in words. So many different song movements. From black metal to classical to ambient. This is not predictable music by any means. It’s all very well crafted and creative. It flows seamlessly between transitions and movements like a sick and twisted symphony.

The next track is called “Smokefall“. It’s one of the shorter songs coming in at 7 minutes even. This song starts heavy pretty well right from the start and continues on until just before the 2 minute mark when the acoustic guitars take over with some Eastern influenced melodies and rhythms. Again the song transitions between harsh black metal and melodic acoustic atmospheres. It’s something that Aquilus does extremely well and they make it look so easy. The song ends with a sorrowful piano melody which leads well into the acoustic intro of the fourth track “In the Lands of Ashes“.

“In the Land of Ashes” is a highly beautiful and atmospheric song. Soft, warm, folk and classical inspired melodies move fluidly between arrangements. The vocals are sparse and vary between clean, growls and soft whispers. For the most part the song relies on acoustic elements with bass, keyboards and piano providing thick atmosphere. Like the vocals the drums appear in small doses and only when the song begins to pick up volume and pace.

The fifth track “Latent Thistle” starts off heavy wasting no time getting right into the thick of things. It’s pure atmospheric black metal until about 2 minutes in when it yields to classical acoustic once again. Even though it’s acoustic it’s still sort of heavy sounding and gives off a very dark, foreboding feeling. Once again the melodies are mesmerizing and unpredictable. At 5 and a half minutes, this is the shortest song on the album but still one of my favourites. The sixth track “Arboreal Sleep” picks things up once again with more atmospheric black metal though it’s more mid-paced with the drums providing most of tempo. The song moves between atmospheric black metal passages with acoustic based interludes using a combination of harsh growls and clean vocals.

The intro of the seventh track “The Fawn” has some expertly performed, classical piano which builds, slowly gaining momentum until almost stopping completely. That opens the door for the heavier black metal that is infused with progressive elements. Some of it sort of reminds me of older Opeth but more black metal. Overall it’s one of the heavier, darker songs on the album. Other than the piano intro the softer elements have been left out of this one. The heaviness is welcome because this album can be a bit quiet and mellow at times leaving me yearning for more of the harsh black metal stuff.

“Night Bell” is the last track but it is long and puts everything Aquilus does so well together into one massive package. Heavy atmospheres, enchanting acoustic based melodies, harsh black metal and some epic keyboards. There are a lot of amazing things hidden within this song though at 17 minutes it does get difficult to make it all the way through. If you can make it to the end you will find more wonderfully performed classical pianos weaving dark, melodic harmonies and melodies. The song ends with a little surprise that’s mixed quite low so you really have to strain to hear it. But if you had your speakers cranked like I suggested earlier you will have a much easier time making it out.

This music isn’t going to be for every one. The black metal parts are great but they are just a part of the overall sound of Aquilus. The classical/folk passages can be overwhelming because of the sheer vastness of them. An example of this is the first track “Nihil“. It’s a 14 minutes song but the entire last 9 minutes of it is movement after movement of acoustic guitars, pianos and multiple layers of keyboards. Some of which can be somewhat ambient at times. For those willing to sit down and give this album the proper attention it needs you will find a true masterpiece full of of beauty, darkness, sorrow, melody and atmosphere. It’s a modern day, metal symphony and I highly recommend listening to it.

Originally posted on MidwinterFires.com

Quite atmospherical - 91%

nilgoun, January 17th, 2012

First of all I want to outline the formalities: Aquilus stands for atmospheric metal with major influences of folk and classic and some scattered black metal parts. The one and only member Waldorf stems from Australia and therefore he is responsible for every twist and turn of this piece of music. This record includes eigth songs with a total playing time of whole 1:19:55! You read right, nearly 1 1/2 hours of playing time, impressive.

Regarding the number of tracks, the playing time and the genre of this record it should be clear, that this won’t be the kind of music which totally catches your attention every second the music plays – but it doesn’t has to. Griseus defines itself through really intense and catchy, majestic layers of synthesizer sounds and well done arrangements. The majority of the compositions could also accentuate epic film clips, and therefore function as a soundtrack. This fact should indicate, that the songs are mostly held in low- and midtempo but of course there are some faster passages as well.

As the record continues playing you’ll realize how manifold it is and especially the songs with vocals – for instance the opening track Nihil - are featuring significant black metal influences, for instance excessive, fast played guitar riffs and fast drum patterns. Although there are this really fast passages, the same songs are featuring long drawn, slowly played ones which seem to be quite mystic/magical and those structures are the defining element of Griseus. Besides the excessive use of synthesizer sounds there are piano played melodies as well which shine through again and again as the record progresses and they are noticeably affecting the created atmosphere which can range from threatening to quite cheerful moments.

All in all you could say, that Aquilus is a mixture of bands like Agalloch, Blakagir/Nachtreich/Myrkrith (or similiar bands which create such an atmosphere) and Opeth which shines through in some tracks as Latent Thistle. The mixture of different styles should mark out how multifaceted this project is. There is enough variation within the tracks through the interplay of black metal and neofolk influenced passages, which guarantees that even the really overlong songs (for instance 17:30) stay interessting over their playing time. The melodies and arrangements are refreshing and new, at least if you consider each song insulated, as there are some sequences which are used over the whole record, which is a bit disturbing.

Conclusion:

Griseus takes you on a journey to a dark-romantic world, which is full of epic sounds that are inviting you to dream. The songs are mostly defined through thick layers of synthesizer sounds, but there are fast guitar and drum patterns as well. This record should totally satisfy you, if you like atmospheric music with only some real metal passages but a lot of neofolk ones.
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Written for http://threnodies.com