If you’ve already begun to groan at the endless legion of extreme metal lyricists portending the apocalypse is either nigh, already here, or inescapable a la Morton and cannot stomach to watch the end as it appears, the window into the perspective of the victim (and the symptom) offered by Balearic Islands, Spain based melodic death metal band Æolian provides equally damning horror from a divergent angle. The major difference is that this poetic window into the eyes of the Earth is somehow hopeful. ‘Silent Witness’ is beyond naturalism in this sense and absolutely preaches to the great choir of environmentalists and scientists who are so stained by the decades of deafness and denial that have long met the idea that destruction of Earth is not only imminent but also possible to reverse. That the ails of global warming and catastrophic weather are clear-as-day in 2018 as signs of impending irreversible doom should be obvious, unless you are remarkably stupid.
Æolian‘s approach isn’t so harsh as my own deductions and their message is not only written from a sympathetic perspective but comes without scolding, snide scoffing, nor preaching. As inspiring as this lyrical content is on a personal level it comes with a cumulative sonic melodrama spanning the last two decades of Scandinavian melodic death metal and dark metal styles; This will be a difficult point of entry for folks who have little interest in the range covered by Finnish groups Mors Principium Est, Insomnium (see: “Wardens of the Sea”), and Omnium Gatherum where each built upon the methodology of In Flames and worked in a mildly progressive direction over time. If you’re worried about tired ‘Euro pop-metal’ hooks and ill-fitting gothic metal vocal tangents you can relax for the most part, the intent aims for ‘epic’ rather than saccharine or brooding. Æolian do not entirely hang their hat on Scandinavian influences and you will undoubtedly catch onto nods to mid-era Rotting Christ (“Wardens of the Sea”) and even some ‘Elegy’-ish Amorphis riffs (“Return of the Wolf King”).
It might be going too far to suggest that ‘Silent Witness’ is a riff-driven experience simply because the most memorable moments come from melody and flourish but, it is nonetheless decidedly on the heavier side of Scandinavian influenced melodic death metal. More Thyrfing and less Black Swan at the very least. It is clear that these guys are equally inspired by classic popular melodic death and the early 2000’s era of thrash metal but their collective consciousness additionally represents almost the entirety of the scene in their island between brutal death metal (Goreinhaled), black/death metal (Desmodus), melodic/gothic doom metal (Helevorn), and viking/folk metal (Battlehorn) projects. In this sense you are getting a very focused and professional collaboration between the more notable metal musicians of a certain biome.
With a lot to say and a lot of influences driving Æolian‘s sound, there is almost too much of ‘Silent Witness’ at 56 minutes. It doesn’t feel as seamless as comparably lengthy albums like ‘New World Shadows’ or ‘Shadows of A Dying Sun’ but fans of relatively modern melodic death metal will find little to take issue with. Where I lose a bit of interest come with the sort of Testament-esque thrash riffing that pops up in a few songs (“Chimera” and “Oryx” mainly) and loses some of the tension of the otherwise clever enough arrangements. In terms of analysis and fitting my own taste in melodic death metal ‘Silent Witness’ is right at my threshold for dramatics but when juxtaposed with records of similar style it is a remarkably clean and listenable record that packs an almost convoluted amount of detail into a big experience; This doesn’t guarantee value but there is depth here that will absolutely please the audience for this style of melodeath. As a debut it is highly professional and admirably well-formed so I have no qualms with recommending ‘Silent Witness’ to folks who are tuned into the archetypal Scandinavian melodic death metal style. For my own tastes I felt some greater variety could have been achieved with a more rawly thrashing ‘edge’ but at the same time I understand the level of refinement they were aiming for. Moderately high recommendation, both for the slick melodic death metal style and pro-environmental message.
Eroding the land without fear. 3.75/5.0
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