Amiensus – Abreaction (Album Review)

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Epic torrents arise from an unconscious experience.

It’s a difficult task, being an American band attempting to hold a candle to the colossal accomplishments of iconic northern European bands that have all but held a lock on a particular stylistic expression for the better part of three decades. But in recent years, numerous outfits from the northern reaches of the continental United States have been making some respectable strides, with much of the talent hailing from the Pacific Northwest and following a similar blend of post-rock and dense atmospheric underpinnings to that of Agalloch, which naturally diverge a bit from the original sound pioneered in the early 90s circa Norway, Sweden, and a few other northern European nations. One such band that has tilted a bit closer to the symphonic splendor and sepulchral majesty of the old guard as exemplified in such outfits as Borknagar, Enslaved and Emperor is the Washington/Illinois/Minnesota-based Amiensus, whom have a more nuanced take on the same basic concept.

Having a fairly prolific record since their 2010 inception, this quintet’s approach can be best described as a multifaceted and very progressive blend of differing ideas into a highly unified and beautiful whole. Their third studio venture “Abreaction,” a term that denotes the state of recalling a suppressed memory by way of either hypnosis or psycho-analytic suggestion, is among the best representations of how the newer practices common to what is referred to as the 3rd wave of black metal with its older and more conservative forerunners to come about lately. Shimmering chords indicative of a slightly shoegaze-tinged character and spacey choral chants that channel the more dreamy aspects of the atmospheric black metal sound are intermingled seamlessly with a more biting and frosty brand of blackness that could have been easily been heard back in the mid to late 90s, occasionally making room for some tasteful symphonic elements at key points.

The songwriting formula on display here could be understood as moderately epic in scope, avoiding the massive 10 minutes plus excursions that tend to be common in this style, but also eschewing the short-length bursts of blasting mayhem common to the traditional 2nd wave formula for something that evolves and grows within a singular song. Sometimes the build from a slow pace to an explosion of fury is relatively short, as encountered on the more old school approach taken on “To The Edge Of Life”, which dabbles in some softer moments, but is largely a brutal riff machine that follows the Emperor template consistently. At others, such as the opening work “Beneath The Waves” and the brilliant journey through sonic catharsis “A Convocation Of Spirits”, the storms of aggression are tempered with a lot more moments of atmospheric respite, often accompanied by melancholy strings and a collage of static vocal chants that provide a warm contrast to the moments of bitter cold.

“Abreaction” Album Artwork

Perhaps the most noticeable trait of this album is that, in spite of all the various moving parts and unconventional transition points from sonic serenity to turmoil, every single moment is consistently of the highest quality. There are definitely moments of denouement to be found amid the sea of climactic points, but when hearing the blistering fury of “Cold Viscera” and frosty torrents of “Drowned”, it feels like the whole song is riding on an apex point from start to finish. Thus trying to pick just one individual song or group of songs as highlights becomes a daunting task, though the consistent darkness and fury of “All That Is Unknown” tends to stand out from the pack by virtue of being the closest thing to a full on symphonic black metal assault, largely avoiding any blatant balladry and occasionally channeling that signature, marching through the now vibe of latter day Immortal during the slower points. But truth be told, this whole album is basically a standout moment.

Over the years the black metal scene has tended to divide itself between those who think that the style peaked at some point from 1993-1995, and those who believe that it was right for it to continuing progressing as it has up until the present. Though most of the old guard purists will probably stick to the notion that the style has to be consistently raw, of a particular lo-fi production quality, and tied to a particular lyrical subject; if any of the old guard were to take to one of the newer variants of the style, an album like this would be a prime candidate. It’s among the more potent and effective blends of old and new to come about of late, and it rivals even the slab of auditory brilliance that was Borknagar’s latest offering “True North.” It’s a highly intricate alternative to the more overtly post-rock tinged outfits riding the coattails of Agalloch, and it retains enough of that approach to remain just as distinctly American. Give it a try, and maybe it’ll jar loose a long forgotten memory or two.

Released by: Transcending Records
Released Date: October 2nd, 2020
Genre: Black Metal

Musicians:

  • Alec Rozsa / Guitars, Keyboards
  • James Benson / Vocals, Guitars
  • D. Todd Farnham / Bass
  • Chris Piette / Drums
  • Kelsey Roe / Guitars

“Abreaction” track-listing

  1. Beneath the Waves
  2. Divinity
  3. To the Edge of Life
  4. A Convocation of Spirits
  5. Euphorica
  6. Drowned
  7. Cold Viscera
  8. All That Is Unknown
  9. Iconoclasm
  10. A Convocation of Spirits (Acoustic)

9.1 Excellent

A newer player from the continental U.S. puts forth a highly potent exercise in forward thinking metal blackness, challenging some of the earlier consequential figures from the Scandinavian region.

  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Songwriting 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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