Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
The world is in constant evolution--the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form, whether it be physically, mentally, artistically, or emotionally. Empyrium are not exempt from that process. Since forming in 1994 they have evolved from a dark metal band blending elements of symphonic metal, folk metal, doom metal, and tinges of black metal, to a purely neofolk group with classical elements as well. An evolution, which might I add, was great and I have absolutely no complaints about.
After breaking up for a few years back in the early 2000's, Empyrium reformed and continued their quest of all things grand and majestic in subtle forms, leading to their previous album, 2014's The Turn of the Tides, which served as a reminder of why Empyrium are great at what they do. After seven years of absence of full-length output, it makes me happy as hell to review Uber Den Sternen, the latest album from the German legends. And there is a lot to talk about on this album.
The album begins with "The Three Flames Sapphire," and right from the get-go you know this is Empyrium. Gorgeous subtle acoustic guitars, serene violins, dramatic operatic male vocals, but with a major and noticeable difference. For the first time since 1997, the metal elements in Empyrium's sound have returned. Heavier guitars are brought in, as well as Schwadorf's harsh black metal rasps. This is something that I feel will make old-school fans very happy. A stellar start to this album.
So I need to get this out of the way: if you are listening to this album as a collection of songs where you can sing along to choruses and riffs, you will be disappointed. But that's not a bad thing. This album is more of a journey through emotion and nature. There's a depth to these songs that beckon for you to listen to them multiple times. The alluring sense of ambiance is apparent from the beginning, and only continues even further. Songs like "The Oaken Throne," "Moonrise," and "The Archer" have this beautiful sense of serenity and morose subtlety. The mixture of clean and acoustic guitars is alluring and really adds more dimension to these songs, paired with the heavily-reverberated production, you have yourself an all-encompassing mood piece that envelopes you into this world created by the band.
But this album isn't all subtlety. As mentioned previously, the metal elements have returned to Empyrium's sound as well. Take for instance songs like "A Lucid Tower Beckons on the Hills Afar" and "The Wild Swan", where the more classic black metal sound comes back to the fold, all the while mixing in the newer neofolk style, The grandiosity can be overwhelming sometimes, but once you are enveloped into the world this album creates you'll be hooked. Final track "Uber Den Sternen" sends you off on an epic and melancholy note. The melodies are strong on this track, and the atmosphere is dense.
As previously mentioned, the production on this album is fuckin' fantastic. Schwadorf has really outdone himself this time with the mix. The guitars cut through like glass, the vocals layer overtop the instruments perfectly, the drums have a nice natural sound to them and boom in sonic clarity. I honestly have no complaints about the production, the sonics of this album give off a really reverb-drenched atmosphere to them, and there's never such a thing as too much reverb to me.
It's amazing how easily Empyrium seem to move right back into their classic sound and their later sound. Seven years is quite the wait to release an album, but it was well-worth it in the end. This is a bold, grand, meditative, and atmospheric journey through nature and serves as a tribute to its beauty. This is easily one of Empyrium's best albums to date. Now I wonder if this was just a one-off album where Empyrium wanted to see if they could perform metal again as a band, or if we are entering another era for the band. But even with that, no matter what direction they go back in next, I'm very excited to see what they come up with.
Just please, we implore, don't take another seven years for the next album. We missed you guys.
Empyrium - Uber Den Sternen was released Feb. 26th, 2021 fromProphecy Productions
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!