Tethra – Empire of the Void Review

Space is very metal. I don’t refer to the space between you and the nearest hunting knife, of course, but rather to outer space, which has captured the imagination of metalheads from all walks of the genre’s spectrum. Today brings Tethra’s Empire of the Void into the mix, a monstrous slab of death-doom designed to crush and inspire. The Italian five-piece’s third outing makes for a compelling listen, bringing the void to bear on fans and newcomers alike.

According to their promotional material, Empire of the Void is recommended listening for fans of My Dying Bride, Swallow the Sun, and Saturnus, among others, and, while I can see the comparisons in the album, there is more to this story than the melancholy doom factor. You see, Tethra brings quite the kick to the doom formula, and it’s an angry kick, adding an edge to the music that’s mostly expressed in Daniele Ferru’s expressive drumming and Clode Tethra’s raging shrieks. Guitarists Alberto Coerezza, Federico Monti, and Salvatore Duca (basses are guitars too!) stick to a reasonably doom-friendly formula throughout, heavy on plodding riffs that pick up varying shades of intensity throughout. The whole thing is a formula for an awesome album; doom with a kick, coldness with barely-restrained fury, and we aren’t even at the space part yet; guest keyboards from Lele Triton add a wonderfully ethereal vibe to the album, haunting and melodic with powerful subtlety.

Empire of the Void manages to feel detached and involved at the same time, as Tethra expertly creates passages to reflect the cold, uncaring nature of the titular void. At the heart of the album, the fantastic “Gravity” crushes the listener in three parts. “Gravity Part I: Ascension” is a solid doom offering, seasoned with the band’s sharp aggression. Part two, “Aeons Adrift” is a memorable, well-written journey into worlds unknown. The chorus feels just a bit NWoBHM-esque, while Tethra’s clean vocals, suave and low, deliver a melody that manages to be doom-heavy and catchy all at once. The final part is largely instrumental, bringing pain, anger and tragedy to light in an inspiring way. I cannot get enough of the eighteen minutes that make up this heart of Empire of the Void; it’s a summation of the best of Tethra’s sound in three awesome tracks.

In many ways, Empire of the Void feels like an album of two distinct halves. Following “Gravity,” the title track quietly comes to life in such a quietly poignant way that you could be forgiven for believing that the album is going to end right there. After that, the second “half” begins with a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,”1 which fits thematically, but not so much musically. The song feels too restrained to really fit in with the rest of Empire of the Void, and its six minutes mark an awkward transition in the album’s story. Things pick up again with tracks like “Dying Signal” and closer “Ison,” but the back half does blur together a bit. The fifty-six minute runtime of the album subsequently feels a bit long, and while the overall quality never dips below “good,” I can’t help but feel I’d be rating this a point or two higher if it really had ended with “Empire of the Void.” Each of these final songs are big, well-composed doom tracks with dark edges, but they lack the hooks and memorability of the album’s mammoth opening numbers.

As a whole, I like Empire of the Void without loving it, simply because there are parts of it I love and parts of it I’ve found to be just a bit forgettable. Still, I don’t feel there is any part to this album that’s actually bad, and it is, on the whole, a strong offering. Tethra’s brand of death-doom appeals to me greatly, and I look forward to seeing where they go in the future. The vastness of space, other dimensions, distant planets… there’s a lot to work with there, and I can see Tethra absolutely nailing it.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Black Lion Records
Websites: tethrablacklion.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/TethraHell
Released Worldwide: March 19th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. On the CD version only.
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