ALBUM REVIEW : ÆTHER REALM — Tarot
If you live in the US, you may have had the chance to see Æther Realm last fall when they toured with Alestorm and Nekrogoblikon. The quality of what they have released so far would put the band in the league of Omnium Gatherum, Kalmah, Insomnium, and the likes. But no, they are not from fucking Suomi! Hailing from Greenville, North Carolina, this band delivers some seriously fine melo-death in their newest album Tarot.
As the name suggests, the songs on this album are named after Tarot cards and if you read into it, the content seems relevant to the meaning behind each card. I’m not big into esoteric activities, but I am into concept albums/concepts behind albums and I found Tarot to be cleverly crafted.
The first card out of Æther Realm’s deck is “The Fool”. A bit shy of 8 minutes, it is the 3rd longest song on the album. The band may have overextended the typical melodic death song average on a few tracks, but fear not: it’s not just to showcase guitar skills in the typical *jerking off hand motion* style of songs over 6 minutes. They have rich lyrical content and some serious skills in their arsenal, which is made abundantly clear on this record. The song “Temperance” is especially notable, starting off with acoustic guitars and clean vocals, then falling heavy and dramatic with harsh vocals at about the halfway mark, and ending with very a solemn-sounding choir. It’s worth noting that the clean vocals on this album are especially surprising – I’m not sure if they are provided by singer Vincent Jones or another member, but it is a beautiful voice and a great addition to the band's sound.
Æther Real recruited former tour mate Chris Bowes from Alestorm to lend a bit of vocal talent to the song “The King of Cups”, the only high-strung and somewhat low-brow song on this album. I remember them playing it on the aforementioned tour and it was great to see live, but it does also sound good on record despite at first listen being seemingly out of character for Tarot, which has altogether a more melancholic and cold aura.
Æther Realm - "Tarot"
Some of my favourite tracks on this album are “Tarot”, “The Devil”, and “The Emperor”, but the one that truly made an impression on me was “The Sun, The Moon, The Star”. 3 tarot cards stacked into one songs, rolled into a Wintersun-esque frenzy of guitars, blast beats, orchestrations, growls and choirs.
Starting with a short chip tune intro (I’m a sucker for chiptune so allow me to point it out), this song is purely instrumental up until passed the 2-minute mark. Did I mention the whole song is almost 20 minutes long? Even Jari Mäenpää has never stretched a melodic death piece out for this long yet! In this endeavor, Æther Realm has created their very own “Sons Of Winter And Stars” and it tugged at my heart in the same way. It really is a song worthy of notice, not only as far as Tarot is concerned, but as a piece that could go down as a classic. I was impressed with the album as a whole, and that finale was as surprising as it was memorable.
Æther Realm have produced quality music on all their albums but, in my opinion, Tarot is several steps above the rest. The production quality is audibly better, but that’s only a portion of why this album is really worth a listen, even if you’re not a huge fan of the genre. And if all you ever wished for was a Norther reunion, I believe ÆtherRealm could ease some of your pain.
Æther Realm (along with Troldhaugen) will be supporting Alestorm on their upcoming European tour in the fall. This lineup is sure to throw quite a party, and I strongly advise you show up early and catch Æther Realm on their first stint across the pond. Raise your tiny metal hand in appreciation!
ÆTHER REALM — Tarot
Release date: June 7, 2017