Review Summary: With surprises ranging from sweeping black metal passages to full-on salsa breaks, The Fall of Therenia epitomizes any progressive metal fan's wet dream.
I had no idea what to expect going into Norway-based Aspherium
’s latest full-length. I hadn’t heard any material by them before, nor had I heard of the band itself; it was a blind listen so to speak. With the ambiguous title of The Fall of Therenia
, it could be inferred that it’s a concept album, or at least somewhat pompous in its message. The truth is, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Aspherium knows that metal is all about the riffs, and in that regard The Fall of Therenia
does not disappoint in the slightest. It has some of the most inventive, subtle, and downright nasty riffs I’ve heard in a progressive metal album in a long time, without a single note out of place and no awkward transitions to be found. Aspherium found a niche, and it’s to create anything that falls under the large umbrella of “progressive,” which is a vague label in and of itself, and that’s essentially what Therenia
relishes in – a vast exploration through the darkest nooks and crannies of what we interpret progressive music as; and it’s absolutely magnificent.
If a label had to be slapped onto The Fall of Therenia
, melodic death metal is likely the most fitting. As soon as the eponymous track’s intro finishes setting the ominous mood, the barrage of chainsaw riffing begins. It’s not your predictable melodeath-style riffing either. The riffs can be dissonant and crunchy one minute, then bright and melodic the next; they flow into one another like rivers into a lake – smoothly and effortlessly. The song lengths themselves range from a wholesome three-and-a-half minutes to the fourteen minute epic of a closer. But the problem with pigeonholing Aspherium as melodic death metal is that it undermines all the bold experimentation found on The Fall of Therenia
. There are dark piano passages setting the atmosphere in ‘Landfall’ and a full-on salsa break in ‘As We Light Up the Sky’, and those are just a couple segments from two of the ten equally impressive tracks on here. Regardless of how risky or outlandish an idea might appear on paper, Aspherium take it and turn it into something of marvel. The whole of Therenia
can be described as controlled chaos – it’s abrasive, bleak, fast, technical, and beautiful, with every descriptor playing an equally important part in the grand scheme.
As much as I’d like to say Aspherium created the perfect progressive metal album with The Fall of Therenia
, there are some discernable flaws that are simply impossible to ignore. First and foremost is the vocal performance. It’s stagnant for the majority of the album, sticking primarily to strained metalcore screams and occasionally drifting into high shrieks or throaty growls. While it’s far from a deal breaker, this technique simply doesn’t gel with what the instrumentals are doing. Rarely does the music veer into metalcore territory, and when it does, it’s more of an afterthought rather than a focal point. It can be compared to Mike DiSalvo’s performance on Cryptopsy
’s Whisper Supremacy
– while the vocals aren’t inherently bad in any way, the fact remains that they could’ve been better utilized in the album’s context. The production could have been better as well. It sounds relatively plastic as it is, and lacks the kick that would have made the heavy parts (i.e. ‘City of Stone’ and ‘The Revenant’) sound truly massive.
It’s an understatement to say that Aspherium’s sophomore release was a pleasant surprise. It was everything I wanted to hear at the time and more. In a year where good melodeath and prog metal were hard to come across, Aspherium basically took everything that would constitute a metal fan’s wet dream, pureed it in a blender, and released it stealthily under the name The Fall of Therenia
. It’s without a doubt one of 2014’s highlights, and it’s a shame that it received such little recognition from the metal community. Nevertheless, the finest aspect of The Fall of Therenia
is the simple fact that it exists: a sacred jewel in the progressive metal realm, and one that won’t soon be forgotten by those lucky enough to have crossed its path.