One Chosen by the Gods
Released 8th January 2013
North Carolina’s Æther Realm- no, they’re not from Finland- are a brilliant band that play no holds-barred, folk spirited metal that rouses the soul and provides an excellent soundtrack for generally epic activities- from pillaging villages to playing Skyrim. Their debut album, ‘One Chosen by the Gods’ is a solid and impressive offering that is incredibly atmospheric, and very strong from the first track to the last.
Opening on the mighty ‘Oak’, the album dives headfirst into epic folk melodies that are intertwined expertly with harsh vocals and an excellent use of both hard, metallic riffs and a softer, instrumental sound. As with the rest of the tracks, the lyrics are effective and play along to the ‘Viking’ theme exceedingly well. Second track ‘Journey of Discovery’ begins with an atmospheric, almost cinematic sound. In fact, this wonderful song in its entirety would be suitable for a fantasy epic. Fantastic effort here, with a good use of vocals and instrumentation throughout. This epic quality continues with ‘Hourglass’, which also contains a nice variation in tempo throughout, and helps to keep the album as a whole even more interesting. There are some very intricate melodies at play here, which adds to the multi-layered feeling of the track altogether. The band’s namesake song, ‘Æther Realm’ is a much faster paced track, with a heavy, stomping tempo that is reminiscent of horses galloping into battle. As heard on the previous song, this track contains some nice tempo changes and this helps to showcase the talent of the band well.
If I had to pick a favourite of the nine tracks on offer here, track number five would probably be it- but the fact it was so difficult for me to decide this shows how strong all of the songs on this album are! ‘Swampwitch’ is an incredibly catchy tune, with an infectious refrain and an impressive and not too excessive guitar solo. I particularly like the group of voices shouting the title throughout the chorus. Eponymous track ‘One Chosen By The Gods’ has a ferocious beginning, and it doesn’t disappoint as the track progresses. It’s a fantastic, rasping battle-cry of a song, complete with pounding, machine-gun drums. There’s an interesting use of symphonic keys in the mix here, which adds another melodic element to the track and lends it an almost video game-esque quality to the sound. Next song, ‘Ravensong’, includes a great use of choral vocals, with (the almost signature) sweeping melodic background- another excellent song, which is becoming something of a trademark for Æther Realm! The penultimate offering, ‘Winter’s Grasp’, is almost progressive in parts, and lends itself well to comparisons with Wintersun. Even so, in some ways this would be the weak link of the album, if it was at all possible to single out any of these songs as being ‘weak’- I merely feel, personally, that a slightly rawer, folk edge would have lent itself to the song a little better. Album closer ‘Odin Will Provide’, however, is a truly epic way to bring this triumph of an album to a close. Here are, once again, a strong melody, supported by fantastic and intelligent lyrics and another catchy refrain. This track ensures that the album makes its mark on your memory!
Overall, ‘One Chosen by the Gods’ is an excellent debut offering from a band that is well on their way to taking their place in the glorious ranks of the other Viking-clad folk metal behemoths. Æther Realm’s sound is somewhere in between Ensiferum and Wintersun, and if they can constantly deliver goods as solid as this, they will have nothing to worry about. A fantastically impressive set of songs, with no real weak link among them, and it has certainly whetted my appetite for more. I look forward to seeing what more Æther Realm have in store.