Tech Death Thursday: Aethereus – Leiden

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We’re starting Tech Death Thursday off with a bang this year with the newest from Aethereus.

The typical album release cycle at the start of the year is painfully slow. January in particular is, to use the words of modern-day philosopher Mighty Keef, “big booty buttcheeks.” This year however, has been atypical in that regard, seeing a handful of sweet albums releasing. If you need evidence of this, look no further than Leiden, the newest album from one of the best new(ish) acts in the tech death scene. Aethereus is back once again with another concept album, but this takes on a very different challenge than the band’s previous album.

Leiden’s story is, as far as tech death goes, a tale as old as time: a guy gets sucked into an alternate universe and slowly goes insane looking at all the crazy shit around him. This is not the first tech death album about a character’s descent into madness, nor will it be the last, but Aethereus distinguish themselves by bringing this concept to life through the music. The album’s pace, flow, and melodic ideas are informed by its concept; again, not the first time this has ever been done, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t nail the illustration of the protagonist’s mind being completely broken by the end.

The musical progression of the album will feel familiar to fans of The Ocean, following a similar path as the post-metal outfit’s Pelagial. Whereas that album starts off light and ethereal, gradually growing darker and heavier as it sinks deeper into the depths of the sea, Leiden starts off highly melodic and gets gradually more discordant as the record goes on. It’s brilliant in its simplicity, perfectly conveying the essence of the album’s story while simultaneously starting the listener off in a place of relative comfort and slowly introducing stranger ideas and harsher sounds.

As mentioned above, Leiden’s opening tracks are its most melodic, with soaring triumphant lines out of Christian Muenzner’s playbook and some more unusual fare akin to the likes of Arkaik. The middle chunk will feel familiar to fans of the band’s previous work, building off of some of the ideas established in Absentia, though this newer material is more focused and refined. The band’s penchant for drippy-ass chords and devious counterpoint is in top shape here, weaving their strange melodies together with more proficiency and alacrity than ever before. The final songs, however, are the album’s best in my estimation; by the time the title track rolls around, the band has eased you into weirder and weirder stuff, finally cutting loose and holding nothing back here. These last songs convey a terrifying majesty that would do Disentomb proud, and some of the riffs recall Colored Sands-era Gorguts, transforming into something entirely unique and alien with closer “Upon Infinite Seas.” Kudos especially to the vocalist (and guest vocalist Kyle Rasmussen of Vitriol) on this track for going way above and beyond the typical death metal fare and doing some truly unsettling stuff.

Absentia was one of my favorite albums of 2018 and still gets regular spins from me, but Leiden represents a substantial upgrade. It marries concept and music flawlessly, and the songwriting is more cohesive, weird as it is by the end. And the best part? You can stream it right nowLeiden releases tomorrow, January 14th, via The Artisan Era. Snag yourself a copy on Bandcamp, and follow Aethereus on Facebook. That’s all for now, and until next time,

Stay Tech

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