I love Insomnium. Big shock, I know. Of the eight reviews with Insomnium namedrops this year, I own more than half of them. Imagine my dismay when, upon returning from re-education vacation, I stumbled across a lonely slab of Insomnium-core from November, unreviewed and unloved. From Greece, to boot! Aetherian laid their pearly adoration for melodeath’s upper crust before swine and I’m going to give them their due1. Good thing too, because debut The Untamed Wilderness establishes the Greeks as yet another act to watch in the genre’s burgeoning underclass.

Opener “Wish of Autumn Twilight” underwhelms initially, with a few noticeable defects I’ll touch on in a bit, but a hallmark combination of Insomnium and Be’lakor do just enough to warrant letting the album spin on to the second track. Good thing too, because from second-slated “Dark Earth” forward, Aetherian start slugging bombs out of the park. The marvelous instrumentation encapsulates everything right about the album: gorgeous, cryptic riffs, developed with a natural ease, and stitched together with the unexpected beauty of Omnium Gatherum, the subterranean pall of Be’lakor, and the thick downpour of Insomnium‘s finest. Guitarists Angelos Maniatakos (ex-Damned Creed) and Giorgos Evgeniadis clearly earned top marks in Subtle Hooks 101, slipping attention-grabbing nuggets into “Seeds of Deception” and “As the Veil Fades” that could easily center their own progression. Instead, Aetherian keep things moving and it keeps the songs fresh. The more deliberately paced “Shade of the Sun” and “The Path” lose nothing off their stride, consistently banging out quintessential Insomnium moments without feeling recycled or tired.

Would that I could slap a 4 on this and call it a day. But alas, disappointment is a popped kite string away. Today, it’s the vocals, the grating, mood-crushing equivalent of Bell Witch with an Alaskan throat singer on the mic. Bassist/vocalist Panos Leakos’ substandard growls feature a jarring, crackling fry that are somehow more abrasive than his work in Mist of Nihil. As with the tectonic atmospheres of Be’lakor and Insomnium, Aetherian‘s own labyrinthine forests require a crushing presence to complete the picture. Instead, Leakos feels overmatched. My first spin almost saw me quit the album on “Wish of Autumn Twilight,” before Aetherian‘s glorious riffs could worm into my brain. As The Untamed Wilderness hits its stride, overlooking him becomes easier, and in rare instances, Leakos feels more at ease in the music. I can’t help but wonder if I’m subconsciously tuning him out or if the production is quietly sucking him further into the mix in an attempt to let the riffs shine.

An inherent rawness in the production exacerbates the lack of varnish on the album. The album handles its poignant acoustic passages well, with masters left mercifully un-cinder blocked, but the main thrust of the record needs more thunder. The drum performance in particular, though nothing to write home about, could stand to be plumped up. The Untamed Wilderness‘ tactile deficiencies are light enough to be written off as a first album hiccup, but they represent an area of need going forward. If nothing else, putting a little more meat on the guitars could only help. Maniatakos and Evgeniadis already do so much with their time, pouring purified riffs down your earhole at every opportunity. They benefit from an uncanny focus necessary to tie their long-form compositions together, though at times those compositions might be better served with a haircut. Seven-minute “Black Sails” is the best of the both worlds. Aetherian deftly subvert the record’s established tonality with an unexpected folksiness, natural harmonics, and a trio of acoustic passages, but stay on message with some of the best riffing on the album.

If it seems like this review has too many gripes for a positive score, know this: The Untamed Wilderness, albeit flawed, is some of the most enjoyable melodic death I’ve heard this year. Awards for originality and Top 10 appearances might have to wait until next time, but the riffs here can (and do) carry a tugboat on their back. Aetherian have some kinks to work out, but if they can, they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: aetherianlfr.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/aetherianband
Releases Worldwide: November 24th, 2017

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  1. We saved it for you as a welcome back gift, you ungrateful bastard. – H.R. Team
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  • Adrian Shotbolt

    I really like this album. Very solid melodic death, and, I like the vocals. The production is a little swampy, but overall a fine record. Great review.

  • Danny

    Well I like Insomnium as much as our dearest Doctor, so I suppose I should take time off my endless replays of Shadows of the Dying Sun to listen to this. DR 9 suggests this has a better master, at least.

    • I still can’t get Winter’s Gate off my playlist. Shadows of the Dying Sun never stuck with me, not sure why as it’s still a great album.

      • Danny

        Winter’s Gate is a jam and a half and I dig it like a hole. Shadows is probably their most goth-rock record, I get why people find songs like Ephemeral and Lose to Night too commercial, but that’s what I love about that record.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Yeah Shadows has waaaay more dynamics vs Winter’s Gate. After repeated listens I still couldn’t really recall anything as standing out on WG.
          Shadows has more memorable songs.
          But i like my MDM to have lots of melody.

        • I’ve been listening to Shadows for the past ~20 minutes as a refresher. Sounds great, melodic as hell and suddenly I get the urge to turn the dial over to DT’s Character or Fiction albums. *shrug*

  • Zach Ward

    So glad y’all reviewed this album. Heard it a bit ago and fell In love wit it. Top notch melodeath. Better than a fair few I’d say. I’d bump it up to a 4.0

    • Dr. Wvrm

      It’s a slam dunk 4 if not for those vox. I wish I liked them more, cause this would be year-end stuff if so.

      • Zach Ward

        I actually like the vocals more than quite a bit of other melodeath bands. I find them uniqueish…

  • pfk505

    Haven’t checked this out yet – to the top of the list it goes!

  • SoLeftISeeRight
  • Eli Valcik

    Get worse album art, please.
    It’s a good record but artist me is trying to slit my wrists with with some spare battle jacket spikes.

    • They could have just used the mountains in the background on their own and it would have been fine… :-/

    • Piet

      Looks great to me?

  • welyyt

    This wasn’t much of a year for melodeath though imo; the new Mors Principium Est was the only decent release that comes to mind, Exhumed was amazing (but I wouldn’t count that as pure melodeath), TBDM was OK at best and don’t get me started on Wintersun.

    That pretty much leaves us with Sentient Ignition, and Beyond Grace as the only worthwhile listens of the year.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      MPE are awesome though….I liked the new Dark Tranquility too

      • welyyt

        Agree on both points, but Atoma was a 2016 release.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          That’s correct….I guess it has been a dry run then lol

        • Danny

          Atoma was late 2016, but I only really sunk my teeth into it in the new year, so its on my fake-2017 best of list. That’s a fucking amazing record.

          And for quality 2017 melodeath, Noumena’s Myrrys has been getting regular spins in Danny’s doghouse since it came out. Reminds me of a more melodeath take on Draconian’s sound.

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            WÜF

    • WhamBamSam

      I haven’t liked a melodeath record as much as the new Aether Realm in years. It’s on the lighter side of the subgenre, but Tarot is a great album.

      • Danny

        Tarot is such an phenomenal LP. Edit 10 minutes off and it would be my AOTY. If you like Wintersun but wish they were, you know, better, don’t sleep on Aether Realm.

        • Nukenado

          I would go further and say that time is your only constraint; If you have the time, you can go start from finish, including the last track.

  • WhamBamSam

    So you’re telling me that there’s a second 2017 melodeath album from a band whose name starts with Aether that trips up out the starting gate with a weak first song before ultimately turning out to be a quality record? That’s quite the coincidence.

    • Danny

      I like The Fool! Its “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars” that I’d take a pair of trimmers to…..

      • Nukenado

        The Sun, The Moon, The Stars works well when taken alone.
        I know, “album artform” and all that, but if listening to it alone will improve my chances of liking it, you bet I’m going to.

      • WhamBamSam

        There are probably a few minutes that could have been trimmed from “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars,” but I like it a lot overall. You certainly can’t just chop wildly and not risk hitting something important.

        • Danny

          Oh it’s a great song overall, some truly phenomenal moments. I’m just saying I’d cut it back to maybe 14-16 min, and it would be all the better for it.

    • Nukenado

      Hey, watch it!
      The Fool is great! Now Strength…

      • WhamBamSam

        “Strength” is a pretty solid Amon Amarth album closer. It’s probably my second least favorite track on Tarot after “The Fool” though, and probably could have been cut seeing as we’ll get an Amon Amarth album closer every few years from now until Ragnarok.

        • Nukenado

          I love the clock sound effect breakdown on the Fool. It could have been trimmed a bit though. Strength is a victim of song placement.

          • Dr. Wvrm

            I agree with this. I took a while for me to come around on Strength/Temperance, and it’s mostly because after the high-wire act that precedes it. Listening to them in tandem, separately from the run of the record, is what I needed to really appreciate them. They’re a denouement, both in narrative and musically, and I can understand their purpose in setting up The Sun, The Moon, The Stars. They just – like everything else on the record – could stand to be a bit shorter.

    • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

      Huh, weird how people have such varying tastes; I gladly put The Fool in my top 5 favorite songs of all time after a few listens. There are so many different little things that I love about it. Runner up for album fave is The Devil, except for that weird word salad the vocalist sounds like he’s trying to jam together around 1:50.

      Criminal that they didn’t send AMG a review copy.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Funny enough, The Fool was a point of contention when I hung out with El Cuervo last month. He is of the opinion, like Sr. Cloud Mountain, that it’s the best on the record. I’m with you. That song’s exclusion would only have improved Tarot. Either way, I’m pretty surprised that a seemingly innocuous song like that could inspire such contrasting opinions.

      • WhamBamSam

        My new theory after this thread is that the band members couldn’t agree on what constituted the best material either, and that’s what resulted in the record’s lack of trimming.

  • PretentiousFuckwad

    Damn, you weren’t kidding about the vocals. I found myself stopping two minutes in. The first thing that comes to mind is the band Filth, but at least that vocalist had a bit more energy behind his vocals, and at the same time they were, you know, consistent with the themes of their songs.

  • Panagiotis Krokidas

    Damn, we produce some quality music down here. A well deserved 3.5.

    That’s one of the best melodeath album of the last years.

    • sir_c

      Down here? You live near the Styx?

  • Piet

    This is for me a near perfect album. Love the atmosphere, riffs and acoustic passages. The gripe with the vocals are understandable. I don’t mind them at all but I see where you are coming from.
    AOTY for me.

  • Bryan Barkman

    I’m usually pretty picky about vocals, but I think this guy has a great voice. Perhaps better suited to music a bit more brutal, but I feel that way about most melodeath. This sounds really good, kept me riveted for the full 7 minutes, will definitely give this a spin or two.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I like how this review is sandwiched between Hard Action and Atomic Bitchwax.

  • Noctus

    I’m really enjoying this, has a great dark and melancholic vibe to it. Vocals are taking some getting used to but otherwise it’s a really, really solid album.

    Also minority here, I love the first track.

  • sir_c

    I picked some tracks off their Bandcamp and I am quite impressed. I really like the flow of the album and the atmosphere they carve out. The vocals first sounded a bit weird, but after I got emerged in the music I found it fits very well.