Amaurot – … To Tread the Ancient Waters Review

Amaurot is a four-piece gothic death doom band hailing from Sweden and fronted, and co-founded, by German vocalist Lisa Rieger (also of Hydra). And this review of their full-length debut, … To Tread the Ancient Waters, is woefully late. I make no apologies for that but know that there are Reasons. Valid Reasons. Rieger founded the band in 2019 with guitarist Peter Svensson (ex-Goatess, among others), who also handles keyboards. Bringing together a number of different influences from their respective other projects, the two wrote … To Tread the Ancient Waters. Amaurot’s line-up is completed by bassist Magnus Hultman and drummer Thomas Hedlund (no, not that Thomas Hedlund). For their debut, Amaurot also draft in a number of guests, the most high profile of which is undoubtedly Rogga Johansson. As Amaurot take their first full-length steps out onto the metal waters, will they sink or sashay?

To Tread the Ancient Waters is a mournful, contemplative study in classic Candlemass and Draconian style doom, with just a few hints of a heavier death doom style, aping something like early My Dying Bride. In addition, and driven in no small part by Rieger’s clean vocals, there are some similarities to early Within Temptation, and in one or two places even to Lacuna Coil. Despite the overall gloominess of the sound, there is something slightly uplifting about the tone of Rieger’s rich, sorrowful cleans, even as her rasping growls add an extra, heavier dimension to proceedings. This combination gives Amaurot a real sense of mood, rather than just ambience, as the depressive doom of the guitars, drums and keys is, to a degree, offset by the vocals.

The slow crawl, oppressive claustrophobia that forms the backbone of Amaurot’s compositions is tempered well on more upbeat tracks like “Starless Sky.” This sees Johansson and Marcus Rosenkvist (of Void Moon) contributing guest vocals, and Rieger dabbling in choral backing vocals, as Hedlund’s drums take on more urgency and Svensson’s melancholic guitars are given more freedom to roam. By contrast, album closer “Phoenician Ashes” (also featuring Johansson vocals) opens in supremely stripped-back fashion, with just a picked guitar and eerie, echoing vocals from Rieger. Gradually, Amaurot introduce the other elements of their sound, building the picture up to a towering death doom epic. Elsewhere on … To Tread the Ancient Waters, Amaurot show themselves more than capable of breaking out of the basic Candlemass blueprint, without losing their identity in the process. Whether it’s the scattered use of guitar solos (like those delivered by Forsaken’s Sean Vukovic at the back ends of “Aether Child” and “Gone Forever,” respectively), or the more anthemic, gothic stylings of “Des Wanderers Leid,” it all fits but subtly shifts style and mood, carrying the listener along.

There is no doubt that Amaurot have the songwriting chops and the band has delivered a very good debut. Even at 52 minutes in length, I actually found there to be very little by way of bloat on … To Tread the Ancient Waters. Rieger is a very good frontperson and, although her cleans are undoubtedly stronger than her harsh vocals, which perhaps sound slightly strained in places, she is the complete package. Svensson’s guitars are the very picture of elegant restraint, with delicate but compelling leads and an unflashy, doomy melodicism I really enjoyed. There were, however, a few things off in the sound that held back this album for me. First, the master is loud, which makes it a slightly exhausting listen. Secondly, Rieger’s vocals, for all their undoubted quality, are just a tad too high in the mix and as a result they occasionally dominate Svensson’s guitars (“Loneliness” being a particular example of this). Lastly—and I hope this is just a glitch with my review copy—the volume is slightly uneven across the record, and there are very occasional blips in the sound, almost like a connectivity issue on my headphones but I have tested this with different cans and playing from my phone and laptop, all to the same effect. Hopefully these issues fall away on the release version.

Amaurot don’t just Tread the Ancient Waters, they stride across them. Although all four band members have been, or are still, in various other bands, for their first outing as a unit, this record is one of remarkable consistency and strong songwriting. Apart from a couple of issues with the production and a sense that Rieger’s harsh vocals could be a little stronger, I have very few qualms about this album. It ticks all my classic doom boxes, while also offering something that sounds fresh and has an identity of its own.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Obelisk Polaris Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

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