Review Summary: Empyrium's sixth release trades youth for maturity and the result is an emotional trip that conjures images from the Germans' entire discography.
One element that a lot of '90s underground metal bands nailed back in the day, was atmosphere. Especially the Peaceville Three along with some Norwegian black metal blended otherworldly textures with copious amounts of aggression and managed to come up with something grand. For those who haven't checked Empyrium yet, the aforementioned along with Cradle of Filth in the lyrics department were their biggest influences. Their first two albums feature their more metallic side, whereas their next two were mostly acoustic, in the vein of Ulver's Kveldssanger
In a nutshell, Über den Sternen
is a combination of their pre-comeback material with touches of the Dead Can Dance tendencies that can be found on The Turn of the Tides
. As a result, the German act's sixth LP is a complete pastoral experience, with a strong pagan feeling throughout, and lyrical themes that are based on myths and ancient places.
On the one hand, you have acoustic tracks like "Moonrise" with a guitar melody that brought to my mind pre-Radiohead Anathema, and "In the Morning Mist" that exudes a sweet melancholy, even though it feels slightly underdeveloped. On the other hand, "A Lucid Tower Beckons On The Hills Afar" starts off with a grand My Dying Bride riff, before incorporating an acoustic passage. However, it's songs like "The Wild Swans" and the title track which make this one such an enjoyable listen. The former is probably the most majestic composition blending seamlessly Empyrium's two sides, while it also features a stunning melody at the 3-minute mark. The latter is the longest track of the album and has some of the best harsh vocals towards the end, as well as an excellent doom passage at the 2:40 mark which reminded me of Theatre of Tragedy's first two albums. "The Oaken Throne", with the melancholic cello melody at the beginning, will also appeal to fans of Theatre of Tragedy, due to its Aegis
-like passage at the 4:30 mark, that naturally evolves into a cathartic outbreak.
One thing that this album seems to lack, is the magic of the Germans' first releases; something that just crept into some '90s recordings and cannot be reproduced even by those artists who achieved it back then. As a result, it doesn't reach the emotional heights of Songs of Moors and Misty Fields
, so I wonder how it will hold up with repeated listens and as time passes. However, for now, I can't help but fall in love with all the qualities that Empyrium is known about, and can be found here in plethora.