Sometimes I listen to an album and just get carried off into its’ twists and turns, immersed in an atmosphere constructed by the music itself. I get a picture of what inspired the music, or what the music intends me to feel and see, in the mind’s eye. It’s not easy to write and make music like that, and bands that can just have an element to them which is hard to put your finger on that makes them interesting and unique. That really is a feeling I get when listening to Aeolian’s debut release “Silent Witness”, and it was an absolute blast to listen to.
Aeolian, from Mallorca, Spain, mix many elements of black, folk, thrash and death metal into an enormous smorgasbord of aggressive, but elegant music. Focusing on the beautiful nature of their home island as inspiration, Silent Witness explores themes of the importance of environmental conservation, and the negative impact humans have on fragile ecosystems from nature’s perspective. I really like the idea of personifying nature, witnessing its own destruction but unable to speak out (hence the album name). It’s creative and the concept really fits with the musical direction, which is also absolutely fantastic.
The writing throughout this album flows together seamlessly through the many sections of the songs, with each one twisting and weaving through different speeds, melodic ideas, sound texture and moods. Some start more aggressive and chaotic, with blast beats and thick, complex guitar chords and a cold, harsh screaming vocal style, but transition into a more melodic and mourning sound, the instrumentation and vocal style with it, changing the whole feeling of what’s being portrayed in the song. Some songs incorporate elegant acoustic passages with a folky flair, and some with some displaying some impressive guitar work, both rhythm and lead. The most important thing in all of this is that it never once feels confused in what it wants to do. The songs follow a logical flow, with the musical direction at the end of a section moving into the next with seamless deliberation, with a more melodic section moving into a heavier one without the feeling of hitting a brick wall and suddenly changing direction.
The musical performances on this album were exemplary, but nothing ever felt like it overstepped its bounds in its’ role. Everyone worked to achieve the vision of the album, and there wasn’t anything in the album that didn’t need to be there. The lead guitar work was fantastic, clean and confident, but was there to make the song better, which it did perfectly. The rhythm guitars were probably my favorite part of this album. I loved the lush, thick chords used, and how articulate they sound, without notes being swallowed under distortion. And the melodic, interweaving lines between the two guitarists just built this massive, atmospheric experience, but without keyboards and other folk instruments really made it feel organic.
The drums and bass fit in perfectly, complimenting the other instruments fantastically well, with the right amount of aggression without being intrusive in any way. And finally, the vocal work. I really enjoyed the amount of different styles, sounds and techniques employed throughout the album, and really expressed and emphasized the mood in which was being portrayed. With cold, harsh, raspy sounds reminiscent of black metal styles, to melodic, but aggressive screaming more often seen in folkier or thrashier bands, to deeper death metal growls, and everything in between, the vocal work is nothing short of exciting. However, I really wish it was just brought forward in the mix. With just how exciting and important to the overall songs they are, they really should be given a lot more emphasis than they currently have. As it is, it feels like they were intended to be a real focal point for the album but being a bit too far back the way they are feels like that focal point just isn’t as precise as it should be.
This album is a brilliant debut they should be nothing short of proud of. They hit the mark for what they were intending, and more, with an organic, earthy elegance that just bleeds uniqueness and originality. I had a blast with this album, and I think everyone else that listens to it will too.