Amiensus – Abreaction Review

Time feels stagnant. Lately, my days and weeks meld together, and it’s not uncommon for me to forget what month it is. The only true notion of time I have these days is informed by my observation of the changing seasons through my apartment windows and on my unhurried jogs around the neighborhood. A couple weeks ago, wildfire smoke billowed thick and heavy into the Seattle sky. The smoke finally lifted, taking along with it what seemed to be the rest of our precious summer days, leaving behind a cool breeze, fall colors, and a persistent drizzle in its wake. Recently, I was grateful to discover another valuable way to measure the passage of time — by watching the release date of Amiensus’s new album inch closer. Having the opportunity to review Abreaction truly is a silver lining through it all.

It beats me how the grief-stricken yet gorgeous and woodsy, black metal of Minnesota’s Amiensus flew under the radar of my hawk-like colleagues here at AMG up until now. After my first few listens of the ten year old band’s newest material, however, I couldn’t help myself from feeling taken aback and even pouting a little. Where are the beautiful, aching cleans and shimmering synths of 2013’s Restoration and 2015’s Ascension, I wondered? Amiensus’s first two albums, arguably more accessible than their latest, were especially formative for me. They pulled me into the metal genre deeper than any other metal albums I had listened to before, more so even than Panopticon’s Autumn Eternal. Amiensus’s early material contained an atmosphere and sense of yearning melody that I effortlessly latched onto. Thus, listening to Abreaction gave rise to feelings in me akin to going through a breakup. The first thing I took note of was the obvious trend away from heavy orchestration and the atmospheric side of black metal pervading their first two full length albums towards a more complex, progressive death metal sound. It was quickly apparent to me that Abreaction wasn’t going to pull my heartstrings as taut as their older albums. I wiped the pout off my face and recognized that it was important I give myself more time to process Amiensus’s new charter.

Keeping up the tradition of using words with the suffix “ion” as album titles, Amiensus’s latest album title refers to the expression and emotional discharge of repressed emotion. The more times I listen to Abreaction, the more appreciative I am of the band’s decision to evolve and not rely on the qualities that initially garnered them fans. Listen closely, and remnants of stylistic elements of Ascension and Restoration can still be heard on Abreaction. Folksy, atmospheric cleans bookended by shrill, black metal snarls and blast beats lives on in the intro track “Beneath the Waves,” which oddly threatens the listener to move into indie, post-rock territory. Similarly, reverb-heavy “Euphorica” is a blast to the past with classic, lush melodies. But ultimately, these brief moments of old-school Amiensus beauty are mere blips in the radar on a more unrelentingly heavy and death-inspired LP than the Minnesotan band has ever released in the past.

“A Convocation of Spirits,” reveals my main complaint with Abreaction. A painfully sad track both musically and lyrically, it unintentionally sheds light on vocal harmonies quite rough around the edges, something Amiensus showed no signs of struggling with on Restoration nor Ascension. Whether this is due to lineup changes or a change in mixing and mastering responsibilities, it was unpleasant to listen to and frankly inexcusable given the balanced and powerful strength of vocal harmonies on their previous albums.

After synthesizing my response to Abreaction, my relationship status with Amiensus falls squarely in the “it’s complicated” category. Abreaction is a refreshing and unexpected listen. It’s decorative gourd season, and Abreaction is one of the best centerpieces I’ve found so far this fall to spend time with. Let the pendulum of Amiensus’s music swing you back and forth between blackened death and eerie and ethereal cello swells. So stop reading. Go listen to some Amiensus, why don’t you?

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2020

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