Us no-wage slaves ceaselessly cranking the almighty Angry Metal Guy Patented Review Mill (patent pending) usually have the choice between handing a review in at least 12 days before release or receiving 50 lashes and a metalcore promo. But now and then, the brutal roar of Steel Druhm‘s voice comes through the trap door above, barking orders to review a promo that has already been released but is so good it still requires a write-up, lest the unwashed masses find themselves missing out. Such was the case with Aeternam‘s latest opus, Ruins of Empires, and wiping the blood-streaked sweat from my gaunt and hollow face, I volunteered with quavering voice to accept the burden.

Not that there is much of a burden to listening to Ruins of Empires. Aeternam have produced another fantastic slab of oriental symphonic death metal, a scorching album of 1001 great songwriting ideas, splattered with inventive middle-eastern melodies and instrumentation, and expertly weaving between pummeling bluntness and subtle acoustics. “Damascus Gate” opens on ominous drums and chanting, but it wastes little time on subtlety; before the minute is out, grandstanding guitars knock the pieces off the board, chased by an avalanche of proud symphonics. The influence of oriental metal godfathers Orphaned Land is obvious but this album is much more immediate, and when the song abruptly switches gears into an almost Swedish death metal slaughter it feels natural and fitting.

The knack for impeccable songwriting is what lifts Aeternam far above the level of peers like Myrath. Like watery rapids the tracks have a lively yet continuous flow, never feeling like they were stitched together or awkwardly placed. The occasional jarring moments, such as the sudden break for acoustic world music in the middle of Behemothian knockout “Sun Shield,” are calculated wake-up calls but fit like peanut butter and jelly. The way the band builds up the tracks with impeccable balance between memorability and diversity reminds me of Wilderun in the best way, although Ruins of Empires is less progressive than that.

Good songwriting means nothing without great musicians to execute it, and the band does not let down. The graceful oriental scales flowing ceaselessly from the guitars are spot-on, whether in backing riffs, lead licks or the plentiful solos. The majority of the vocals are a massive growl reminiscent of Nergal, but the cleans are performed just as admirably and choirs are used tastefully and effectively. The drums are clearly not satisfied merely providing a backbeat; especially when the music speeds up the full range of the kit is employed with great precision. The bass does tend to get buried, as is customary in symphonic metal, but here’s an omelette.

More than anything Aeternam bring proof to the sum being more than its parts. A great many elements went into Ruins of Empires but none of them are superfluous and are used with care. Two largely acoustic songs, “The Keeper of Shangri-La” and “Nightfall on Numidia,” allow for some breathing room amongst the dense orchestral acrobatics, without which the album would overwhelm. But on the heels of the former, “Fallen Is the Simulacrum of Bel” creates an immediate pick-me-up with Dimmu Borgir style symphonics, forming a dynamic counterpoint to the soothing folk and ensuring the pace stays high. This is a fully formed album, more than just a collection of songs even though the tracks are not directly connected, and that balance is where the band shines.

Which makes the one big flaw all the more galling. Aside from the acoustics, Ruins is marred by a brickwalled production. It makes me want to stab someone in the scrotum, because I cannot fathom the train of thought it must take to decide an album with this many tracks and this many elements vying for attention needs to be squashed into the auditory equivalent of apricot jam. Other than this rather sizable gripe, there is little to complain about. The instruments sound bright and the mix is great, although the bass is under-appreciated as usual. A more dynamic master would have made a great album into a masterpiece, but it was not to be.

However, don’t let this turn you off Ruins of Empires. Oriental metal may no longer be the new kid on the block, and the market has been thoroughly broken in, but wares of this quality are always in demand. The songwriting is nearly flawless, the execution full of fire and the balance impeccable. Aeternam rose from the snow and pine of Canada and dragged their audience before the Gods of desert sands. Don’t miss this.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: | |
Worldwide: February 10th, 2017

  • Fazy

    Wilderun namedrop?! You’ve got my attention now.

  • hehexd_alestormROCKS

    Came for the cover, stayed for the music.

    Also, imo this has a pretty unique sound and feel to it. I’m 100% digging it.

    Great review as always!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      The cover looks awesome but there’s no way in Hell I can tell what’s going on there.

      • Berit Dogg

        “Get off my belly or I’ll slap you with those astral flyswatters!”

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Astral Flyswatter sounds like an awesome name for a Stoner band.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Kind of sounds like a more proggy version of latter-day Chthonic. I’m into it.

  • Kryopsis

    The classical guitarist in the Sun Shield studio session video is actually wearing a Wilderun hoodie.

  • h_f_m

    This is amazing.

  • The Unicorn

    Good but singer is a jaghoff. Ditch the chinstrap, grow a real beard and a mane, and stop with the silly dreamy camera looks.

    • DJBear

      wow very constructive and relevant NOT get a real life maybe ?

      • DrewMusic

        Oh, lighten up. He said it was good, he just doesn’t like your beard.

      • [not a Dr]

        He did offer some constructive advice after the name-calling.

    • GardensTale

      He’s excellent at juggling invisible oranges in the band pic though.

      • basenjibrian

        I thought he was grabbing Demonic Sucubus Boobies!

    • [not a Dr]

      Isn’t it YOUR self-appointed duty to fix that? What are you waiting to (constructively) unicorn the crap out of that picture?

  • John

    Someone in the comments for another review recommended them to me. I ended up loving the little samples I heard and picked the whole discography up on Bandcamp.

    Compared to the bands I typically listen to, they have a unique flavor. I’m thankful for the commenters on here, but my bank account isn’t.

    • Tofu muncher

      Try Myrath then ;-)

  • Haha wow, really? 4/5? I think this album is a safe-zone snoozefest! It’s so bleh and chinstrap. AMG is now giving 4/5’s out like street tacos in downtown Albequerque. I miss the days where they low-balled and it pissed me off equally for the opposite reason. This album is generic AF, c’mon man!

    • GardensTale

      Maybe you should go to Metal Wani instead. They are super critical and seldom give good scores to bad albums.

      • strychnin

        I’ve read their review on Opeth’s Sorceress for comparison, which seems to quite capture it:

        ‘Sorceress’ is, simply put, Opeth’s finest album since ‘Ghost Reveries’, and their heaviest since ‘Watershed.’ It is moody, dark, and often mysterious, with its cover art reflecting its true nature perfectly. Once again, Opeth takes the listener along paths that are familiar, as
        well as through vistas untraveled.

    • Give us hell, Donald!

      • Point is, no matter what you score any record, it’s gonna piss me right off!

        • I like those odds!

        • Thatguy

          I like your style.

          • William Hebblewhite

            I like the cut of your jib.

    • Zach Ward

      You make me sad..So be it.

  • Oberon

    This living under a rock in Down East Maine is starting to pay off, I poke my head out and get inundated with more music to be poor to.

    • DrewMusic

      Not so much that it’s paying off, more that AMG makes it bearable. Every day here I wake up and ask myself “is there more new metal to read about on AMG or is today the day I try heroin?”

      • No pressure though….

      • Oberon

        You just have to know which lobster pot to check if you want heroin

        • HairyToeKnuckles

          Labster pat. Sorry.

          • Oberon

            It’s really bad when car keys and khakis sound the same

        • DrewMusic

          Oh don’t encourage that, I remember the first time I escaped the crusty, time-forgotten fingers of this state and how quickly it got old hearing constant variations of “do you eat lobster all the time?”
          You gotta be better than that. As for the other nonsense, that’s a hard pass, I just feel the need to transfer my despair over this states drawn out demise onto anyone who brings it up, usually with a healthy dose of sarcasm as to make the tears less bitter.
          Fall’s nice though.

    • VikingSchism

      Wait, is it truly paying off though? Wouldn’t quite choose those words there

      • Oberon

        I surface once in awhile to check how quickly the snow is melting and what new music to grab.

  • WhamBamSam

    I remember getting a somewhat lukewarm impression from their last album, but I really enjoyed the embedded track. My rotation is already overfull, but I’ll have to add this to my list of things to pick up.

  • Zach Ward

    Great album, great review. I need money for this..

  • Carl Redfern

    I love it that Wilderun is now a reference point here at AMG. Will they be honoured with a ‘core’ to their name?

  • Wilfred Holmes Albright

    I think this song would have been greeted with a more positive attitude if we weren’t exposed to images and video of the band itself. I agree with The Unicorn. The singer is a friggen weirdo, and he is quite distracting.

    • Jeffrey Dean

      Honestly I feel the exact opposite. I love the look of the band and the video. It’s actually the main reason I pre-ordered the album on Bandcamp before hearing the rest of it. This is a classic case of subjective opinions.

  • Levly

    Good review and good record (although I like their last one better), but shitting on Myrath was uncalled for and unwarranted. That band is awesome too, and it’s not a competition.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I always say there’s no need to make anyone look bad in order to make someone else look better. Let’s cut some slack here to GardensTale for he is only a no-wage slave ceaselessly cranking the almighty Angry Metal Guy Patented Review Mill. But now he knows, let’s hope he doesn’t repeat the mistake lest he be subjected to receiving 50 lashes and a metalcore promo.

    • [not a Dr]

      I didn’t get that GardensTale was shitting on Myrath… Only that he considers this better.

    • GardensTale

      I didn’t intend to shit on them but imo this is at another level. I meant it more as an endorsement of Aeternam than a put down of Myrath.

      • Levly

        Sorry, my bad then. Still disagree on Aeternam being that much better than Myrath though ;).

        • GardensTale

          Oh fuck we got opinions in the room sound the alarm

  • Chris

    This is my early frontrunner for album of the year. Been listening to it nonstop for the past two weeks.

  • Dethjesta

    I really love this record. Best I’ve heard in Feb, so far.

  • Berit Dogg

    Good job you were somewhat late in reviewing this for once! How in hell am I supposed to remember for twelve days that I’m interested in something? Is that even possible?

    • GardensTale

      Gotta give the editors time to dissect our crap and turn it into something readable!

  • Piet

    Fantastic review, love the choice of words. I came across Damascus Gate a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it. As you said, the mix of Swedish (Gothenburg) riffing and Oriental tones are superb. Also the clean vocals are very well done, something many bands falter with. I definitely need to listen to the rest of the album now and probably buy it.

    • GardensTale

      Thanks, glad you like it!

  • OzanCan

    I am having this…like soon m/

  • contenderizer

    Can’t believe that goofy goobs like this get a friggin’ 4, while Power Trip (which Grier clearly dug) struggles for a measly 3. All while someone, I can’t quite remember who, laments a vanished era of metal with “great hooks, and songs that united friends in drunken head-banging.”

    EXECUTIONER’S TAX, you damn, dirty apes.

  • contenderizer

    Can’t believe goofy goobs like this get themselves a nice, plush seat at the table of 4, while Power Trip struggle for a single crust of measly, weevil-ridden 3. Still feeling the salt from that one. All while someone (I can’t quite remember who) laments a vanished era of metal with “great hooks, and songs that united friends in drunken head-banging.”

    EXECUTIONER’S TAX, you damn, dirty apes.

    • Speak of dirty apes and I appear! Sup?

      • contenderizer

        Ah, you know. Pickin’ nits, flingin’ poops.

  • Sounds great. And their last one was very strong, too, if memory serves. 2017 has been shaping up nicely so far.

  • Schmitzel

    While listening to the embedded track and going through the first paragraph, I realized we didn’t get the Soen review AMG himself promised.

    Are you guys still doing it? I want to argue on the production with somebody!

  • herrschobel

    hmmm….nothing here that peaks my interest….i had high hopes when i read ‘oriental metal’ … kind if boring actually…then again the new Immolation is overshadowing EVERYTHING !

  • Viktor Svensson

    It seems I will have to check this out.

    The Bandcamp link is broken, though.

  • R.Daneel Olivaw
  • To be fair, the band gave you a brickwalled production, while filming their video in front of a brick wall! :)

  • Kalsten

    This sounds really fun and interesting! If you like this kind of sound, there is a dutch? band called Mayan that is in the very same style.