Tech Death Thursday: Aethereus – Absentia
Aethereus have put out a goddamn masterpiece, and you’re going to hear about it. They make it feel good to feel bad.
A couple bits of news:
- Irreversible Mechanism have a new song up following their album announcement, and it’s rad. Very different from the material on the debut, but no less rad.
- Valsa Pintura also has a new tune up, and it’s shreddy as hell (and features some sexy acoustic playing at the end). I’d love to see a full album from this dude someday.
Writing a death metal album that is technically engaging and emotionally impactful is not an easy feat. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on one of those elements over the other, but the best albums are usually those that strike a balance between the two. So when I say the album that has personally resonated with me the most this year is a tech death album, you should know it’s something special. I am of course talking about Absentia, the newest album from Aethereus.
As mentioned in our premiere a few weeks ago, Absentia was written after the passing of bassist Shaun Hansen and is musically and lyrically modeled after the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. To say that this album is heavy would be an understatement. Not in the same way as something like Godflesh, mind you, but primarily on an emotional level; it feels like a 40-minute punch to the gut. It starts off raging and harsh with the occasional pocket of slower, depressive material, gradually working its way through the stages of grief towards somber acceptance. There’s not really a one-to-one matchup between the songs and the Kübler-Ross model- real emotions, and the music by extension, don’t follow it to a tee- so this keeps Absentia from being front-loaded with all the high energy songs.
This also makes the flow of each song somewhat unpredictable- never anything super jarring, but they occasionally take a turn that isn’t expected. There are a few clean breaks after particularly heavy bits, and sludgy discord can transform into beautiful, heartfelt soloing. None of the songs end in the same place they began, and even the structure of the individual riffs is unconventional. Aethereus are masters of blending consonance and dissonance to create unique forms of counterpoint and tension, which is present throughout the entirety of the album. Even the more straightforward parts have some cool twists; for instance, the opening of “The Black Circle” features multiple layers of chords, one guitar ascending upwards into a slide. There are no weird time signatures or chord progressions there, but it still sounds like little else out there.
I would remiss not to talk about how good this album sounds, too. Every piece of the band has depth and weight to it, and nothing feels thin or flat. The low end is nice and thick, the mids warm, the highs mellow; perfect for the music. The mix, done by Mike Low of Inferi and Oubliette, gives everything tons of presence without feeling like each instrument is fighting for space. The bass is particularly juicy, punching through with its big jangling tone (which is great, because the performance is also spectacular). It’s dynamic and full, and it’s all around very easy on the ears.
Even with all the incredible tech and prog death we’ve been getting lately, Absentia is one of a small handful of albums that I’ve remained excited about after multiple listens. Aethereus have crafted something unique in the landscape of the genre, something heartfelt and real. It’s an emotionally taxing journey, but enjoyable in all respects. You can pick it up from Bandcamp or directly from The Artisan Era. You can follow Aethereus on Facebook as well. That’s all I’ve got for now, so until next time,
Is your band tech as heck? Got a juicy piece of news or an upcoming release to watch? Send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check it out. I might even talk about it.