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Aeternam - "Disciples of the Unseen" (CD)

Aeternam - "Disciples of the Unseen" CD cover image

"Disciples of the Unseen" track listing:

1. Ars Almadel
2. Angel Horned
3. Esoteric Formulae
4. The Coronation Of Seth
5. Hamunaptra
6. Iteru
7. Goddess Of Masr
8. Ouroboros
9. Circle In Flames
10. Through The Eyes Of Ea

Reviewed by on February 16, 2010

"Steeped in Egyptian mythology and century's old fantastical history, Aeternam has crafted a full length debut that combines everything they wanted, and everything we love."

“Aeternam” is a latin word that means “eternal or everlasting.” The band Aeternam has taken a good stab at becoming a long-lasting mark on death metal with “Disciples of the Unseen,” as they combine melodic death metal with epic arrangements, classical Georgian elements, and even some Nile-esque Egyptian and middle eastern melody and philosophy (albeit not as detailed or bookish as Nile).

Starting with the instrumental “Ars Almadel” it is clear that the album is moving past the European and classically huge melodies and harmonies of Dimmu Borgir style melodic death metal. The initial chanting gives way to an augmented chord progression that keeps layering itself, and along with the tribal drumming there is quite an Arabian Nights vibe. This melodic structure continues into the tremolo riffs that start “Angel Horned” and now are on top of thick blast beats. The guitar riffing drives the keyboards in the front half, and choral background vocals in the outro add the frosting, snaking in to provide the finishing touches to a muscular piece.

“Esoteric Formulae” introduces the first overtly epic melody – the intro could have been played for Ramses. With that undercurrent of grandeur, the song runs death metal motifs over top and the juxtaposition is gripping. This is also the first instance of vocalist Achraf Loudiy’s clean delivery, and while his voice isn’t stellar, his conviction is. The last few bars that layer Loudiy’s clean and dirty vocals are the ultimate combination of the disparate death and epic melodies of the track.

But the easy highlight of the album is “The Coronation of Seth,” which pushes farther than any of the first three tracks. Starting with a thin acoustic melody that builds with some percussion, the song pauses, then explodes into the complete and full transition of that thin melody into melodic death metal mayhem. Chugging guitars, rhythm shifts, many different vocal layers and backing styles, atmospherics and keyboards all combine to make a mystical and brutal trip. It is easy to picture a band of gypsies crushing out this tune after they had made camp in the middle of the endless desert.

After this gem, the album still maintains its quality and consistency through the remaining six numbers. “Hamunaptra” is a monolithic combination of blast beats and towering melody that has enough juice to have been twice as long as it is. “Iteru” is a mostly instrumental interlude that focuses the music again on some core themes that will be fleshed out over the last few songs. And the last few songs do just that, making more mixtures of the melodic death and epic eastern melodies, but always staying fresh.

The key to the quality is the arrangements across the album. Melodies are lightly interspersed, blast beats are used more sparingly than expected for death metal, clean vocals make just a handful of appearances, and the choral vocals, keyboards, atmospherics and other studio tricks are used in a very frugal manner. This sparing use of extra elements focuses the album on the band’s combination of unique melody, musicianship, and song craft that make the death metal base. Then the extra flourishes make the album great, but not overdone.

Steeped in Egyptian mythology and century’s old fantastical history, Aeternam has crafted a full length debut that combines everything they wanted, and everything we love. The epic soundscapes, grand melodies, impossible stories, myths from olden times, and most importantly, really good and brutal melodic death metal; all these things make this an album that will be phenomenal even after the 1,001st journey across the sand.

Highs: The extended solo in “Ouroboros” is the best single moment of the entire album.

Lows: The production may be a little too clean for some death metal die-hards.

Bottom line: Melodic death metal that is greater than any ancient Egyptian king.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)