As a metal reviewer, I, every so often, have to describe the music I’m hearing. Using complex vocabulary, a plethora of unnecessary adjectives, and textures as real as your blind uncle’s toilet seat, I force you to feel, hear, and taste the album I’m reviewing. If you think that’s easy, you’re wrong. ‘Tis hard.12 Thankfully, for all you, I’m the master of my domain. Give me a song, a sound, or a genre and I’ll be able to describe it to a tee. Let me demonstrate. Black metal: you believe in Jesus but think Satan’s goatee is more hip than the beard. Power metal: you like D&D but your friends grew out of it thirteen years ago. So, songs about dragons will help you pass the time until Magic: The Gathering is a thing again. Death metal: you like zombies and clearly know nothing of the medical field. Doom metal: you need to get laid. Progressive metal: you like being boring. Heavy metal: you’re old. Thrash metal: you like beer. Neo-thrash: you buy your band shirts from Target. But, what’s got me stumped is describing atmospheric death/doom metal. This is gonna take a little more time.3
Architects of Aeon are German enthusiasts of the atmospheric death/doom sound. They don’t like posers and they don’t like hipsters. Instead, they like gruff cleans, guttural growls, and—occasionally—no singing at all. They love chugging riffs, bombastic bass guitars, and the black/death/progressive atmospheres of Alcest, Enslaved, and The Ocean. It’s all about power and control. And they have it. Mustering up the feels and proving that it’s absurd they are not signed.
Koloss wastes no time getting things rolling with its title-tracked opener. Charging out of the gates at full speed, this ditty unleashes a flurry of death licks, bone-grinding vocals, a journey with melodic black/death passages (think modern Enslaved), and a surprising breakdown past mid-point. But, as far as straightforwardness and sheer aggression is concerned, “Koloss” stands alone. While tracks like “Terra” and “Abyssos” have pummeling moments, their inclusion of clean vocals and melodic structures—like mixing Alcest with The Ocean—results in a more-rounded trek. The former uses Gormathon-like vocals for its chorus and highlights the strongest contributor to the band: the bass guitar. Building and building from start-stop riffs to an addictive chorus. Building straight through “Where Wolves Go to Die” and into “Abyssos.” A song with a gloomy introduction and Enslaved-like clean chorus—pushing the song into blackened rasps and early-day Alcestian meloblack soundscapes.
The result of the album’s ascension is the one-two punch of closers “Aidelos” and “Kurgal.” Everything builds up to these two tracks—combining excellent bass and guitar work with drums that are in turns soothing and devastating. Both songs incorporate large doses of dooming melody and progress fluid-like through the thick forage of swampy lowlands to the jagged rockface of frigid hilltops. Yet, the former does all this accompanied by powerful vocals. But “Kurgal” does without. Even after more than a dozen listens, I’m still shocked by the band’s choice to close the album with an instrumental. Yet, this nine-minute behemoth showcases all the band has to offer, providing a progressive Alcest-meets-The Ocean framework for its effects-laden guitars and impressive fucking bass work.
That said, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the lengthy “Kurgal.” And while “Where Wolves Go to Die” has some great moments, it’s hardcore-ish vocals are a little too distracting for me. Also, with so much going on, a less-compressed final product would have been better. But Architects of Aeon are on the right track with “Koloss” and, though I may not have been able to fully describe “atmospheric death/doom” to you, I encourage you to hear it for yourself.