No, that is not the sound of the sky literally splitting asunder, but it sure feels like it. Like a kick in the most vulnerable area of your fragile, tiny testicles, Amia Venera Landscape lands seemingly out of nowhere at the end of a year filled with incredibly high quality metal albums, with a debut that forcefully crushes all of them like tin foil into a nice little ball and tosses them into the outer atmosphere. It’s almost hard to believe when you consider albums like Axioma Ethica Odini, Option Paralysis, Majesty and Decay, and A Determinism of Morality, but it’s true. Imagine if Underoath had the urgency of Converge and the earth-shattering effect and ambient nuance of bands like Isis or Cult of Luna. Such a description hardly does it justice however: The Long Procession simply has to be experienced for it to be understood.
A cliché In metal critiques is describing the riffs as ‘crushing’ or ‘monolithic,’ words I tend to avoid because of their over-use. My own rule seems to have gotten the better of me, however, because I can’t seem to think of any other words to describe them. One word however, that I will describe them with is ‘unyielding,’ a word that accurately describes most of the album. Its entire sixty-six minute run-time can be described as relentless, unyielding, uncompromising, and utterly vast in scope and emotional catharsis. Take Empire, as effective an album opener as any. With every passage, the song raises the bar of intense dramatic catharsis until, just when you think it couldn’t get any better, this one last riff just lands smack dab in the center of it all and just sweeps it all up into a previously unexplored level of emotional expurgation.
It’s not just the guitars that lend Amia Venera Landscape their soundscaping intensity, however. The vocalist is utterly convincing in his passion, roaring over his own towering music with just as much power. Clean vocals bring us back down with the soothing effect of making the album just a bit more bearable when things get too heavy. The drums pound with all the vigor and subtlety of a monster truck derby, driving and propelling the music in one direction: straight ahead, right through the fork in the road. And even then, with all this intensity, the band still manages to show a soft side, with more ambient sections, often just a single keyboard or synth line, breaking up the album, making it a bit more manageable. Sometimes these sections could be considered an issue, because they tend to drag on for too long, and are definitely a contributing factor to the unnecessary lengthiness, but when everything else is as top notch as it is on The Long Procession, such a complaint is minor.
As Marasm ends with a fading whisper, I sit and contemplate the 14 minutes that preceded it. A wall of riffs and driving, urgent melodies and hostile rhythms juxtaposed by simple, stunningly gorgeous ambient sections, and the lines between structure and order become blurred, and you find everything is synthesized into a big swirling mass of sounds that begin to blur together, almost like a dream. The Long Procession isn’t your ordinary metal album. Amia Venera Landscape isn’t your ordinary metal band. This is something different, yet familiar. Uncompromising in its catharsis, yet dream-like in its ethereal beauty. In a year full of some of the most incredible metal to ever grace the genre, this is the last big surprise, and it is certainly the best.