Amiensus - Abreaction review

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Band: Amiensus
Album: Abreaction
Release date: October 2020

01. Beneath The Waves
02. Divinity
03. To The Edge Of Life
04. A Convocation Of Spirits
05. Euphorica
06. Drowned
07. Cold Viscera
08. All That Is Unknown
09. Iconoclasm
10. A Convocation Of Spirits [acoustic version][bonus]

Amiensus started off being labelled as a meloblack band without really playing all that much black metal. They've moved increasingly towards black metal as their career has progressed, but the further that they walk down the road, the more I wonder how much this journey is benefitting them.

After putting out their first couple of albums in the first half of last decade (and a quality pair of records they were), the Minnesotan meloblack group slowed down their output, with only a couple of split/collaboration EPs in the last five years. Another split EP dropped earlier this year, and when I covered it for the Hearing Splits article, I noted that their string-heavy atmos-black contribution was something of a departure from the folky, melancholic sound of Ascension, itself substantially more black metal-heavy than their debut full-length Restoration. I had pondered whether this was indicative that their third full-length, finally with a release date on the immediate horizon, would generally be in line with this sound, something akin to Abigail Williams' Becoming. As it turns out, whilst Abreaction isn't a complete continuation of that sound, it does share quite a few similar traits.

The previous albums from Amiensus had already drawn from several sounds, with an increasingly prominent meloblack sound surrounded by folk, progressive, symphonic and melancholic doomy elements, alongside other occasional tangents. On Abreaction, a lot of these cues appear in some form or another, but there's also the odd moment taken from post-rock and metalgaze, particularly early on, which may have come from frontman James Benson's experience in Chrome Waves. There's also an early feature from the cello (which funnily enough is performed by Chris Brown, who has also recently worked with Abigail Williams) on "Divinity". My prediction from the Hearing Splits article was somewhat accurate; the album does represent a shift closer to the spacious Cascadian black metal sound when compared with its predecessors, with the immediacy of the keyboards and sad vocals harmonies notably muted, and a greater harshness to their approach, as well as quite extensive use of the cello. However, Abreaction doesn't see Amiensus leap towards a lengthier atmospheric black metal sound, with no songs here approaching the 10 minutes of "Leaves Will Grow Anew" from the aforementioned split earlier on in 2020. Instead, a fair amount of the sound from Ascension is carried over here, with enough of the compact-yet-twisting song structures, moving vocal melodies, delicate folk passages and increasingly harsh black metal core intact to presumably please existing fans.

The one thing I've always had with Amiensus is that with their adventurousness comes the odd blip, a promising idea that doesn't quite translate - "One In Spirit" from Ascension in particular stands out for me. Here, whilst there's no song that makes me hunt for the skip button, there are some underwhelming patches, and unfortunately they're a tad front-loaded. "Beneath The Waves" eventually gets going, but the first couple of minutes get the album off with a bit of a whimper, dabbling with some indie-style singing and thin riffs before eventually delivering some of the lush harmonized vocals that group deliver so well. It's not a bad track, but considering the legacy that previous album openers "Dawn Of Release" and "On These Deserted Plains" have set, it's a bit underwhelming and wears out its welcome a while before it ends. I'd also hesitate to return to "Divinity" in a hurry, as the chorus falls somewhat flat and the overabundance of blast beats diminishes some of that compelling Amiensus charm. It's only on "To The Edge Of Life" that Abreaction really begins to pull me in, but it's a mostly satisfying ride from that point onwards.

"To The Edge Of Life" is still somewhat distinct from past efforts, probably one of their more black metal-heavy tracks, yet one that also takes cues from blackgaze, post-rock and even post-hardcore to a certain extent; however, it has more potency that the duo of songs that precede it. "A Convocation Of Spirits", the peculiar initial vocal grandstand early on aside, offers up some stirringly sorrowful cello and riffing, making it one of the highlights of the record. Additionally, whilst it's not as dominant across the whole record as expected, a lot of what made Amiensus so appealing is still around, most obviously on songs such as "Euphorica", full of rich vocals and lush guitar melodies, and "Cold Viscera", where the keyboards are arguably at their most prominent. Abreaction is an album that gathers momentum as it progresses, and where some of the new approaches lack something in the way of effectiveness early on, as they get further integrated with the established strengths of the band, they start to come into their own.

Amiensus' progression to date is almost like that of Abigail Williams on a micro scale, with a rich, immediately melodic sound turned increasingly earthly and atmospheric. The increased harshness (before you expect something lo-fi and cutting, I'm very much talking in relative terms here) does offer up new dimensions for the group to progress in, and they do take advantage of these opportunities to write some quality material. Still, in a world drowning in black metal bands, Amiensus' sense of melody and rich sound were things that made them stand out to me, and whilst I by no means expect them to sound the same forever, I feel like retaining a bit more of those strengths as they move into other territories will lend future efforts well, as Abreaction does suffer a tad compared with its predecessors on the memorability and replayability front.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 28.09.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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