Monday, June 10, 2013

Aetherfallen - Revelation’s Eternal (2013)

When Within Temptation released their last album, "The Unforgiving," in 2011, there was concern expressed by many in and around the metal scene. Can a story so deep really elevate the music? Can music of this style be the right vessel for the story to build upon? The band executed the album well, using each track to tell the story of Mother Maiden and her recruitment of lost souls. But the delicate foundations were high risk, as well as high reward. Aetherfallen, a one man project from Denver, Colorado has poured heart and soul into the writing of his "Revelation's Eternal" storyline. But the trasition from concept to album isn't always the smoothest one. On the album of the same name, Hailen G. gives us an audio-visual story of the end of the world, following the path of one man and his partner from beginning to end. With all of the right pieces in place, it would stand to reason that the album would be an emotional, sonic assault on your senses. But as you read along with the story and lyrics, is the album worthy of sharing the title? Or is this a case of a concept too large for metal?

With the story of the album on display from the onset, there is an immediate challenge presented. The balance has to be perfect for things to work, something that the intro track, "Listen," demonstrates. The screams of the people, the emergency broadcast system all play in the background. But the electronic beat and orchestral arrangements play the lead. What results is a clean segue into "I'll Wait For You," which boasts a blaring backbeat, and a mix that is, quite literally, full to bursting. There is a methodical approach to the building of the track, with both clean and growled vocals in the repertoire. The background symphonic elements, as quiet as they may be at times, are the keystone in this arch, holding up the song at the highest level. It stands as a strong opening, with things being full of substance as well as being accessible to the average listener. That theme runs through each track, including the electronic tinged "Save Your Lights." With an immeasurable number of tempo changes and a sea of blast beats, the only thing the track lacks is restraint. Flirting with seven minutes, it stands as a monument to excess, possibly overstaying its welcome. The much more focused "Momentus," though, embodies not only the style, but the spirit of the album. It's concise four minute framework and booming drum beat are more than enough to bring you back into line, soothed by the vocal melodies.

The sweeping orchestral elements of "Conception" are staggeringly beautiful, enough to tell a story all their own. The lack of restraint that flooded the previous long track is not an issue here, with a clear evolution from start to finish, playing out before your ears in each movement. For the first time, the guitars truly shine through the mix, both in rhythm and lead capacity. Their strength is what helps to ignite the blast that comes in the latter stages, crushing drum beats pulsing through your speakers. A clean outro, and dialogue runs directly into the intermission track, "Throughout The Chaos." The light synthesizers are merely a vessel for the speech, given by a man once thought to be crazy, who now seems more prophet than madman. The second half of the album, mood change and all, begins at that moment. As "Silens Veritas" begins, the pain of the characters held within this story can be felt in every lyrics, every melody. The track plays out like a power ballad, coated in spiritual meaning. It's shortcoming, though, is in the mixing and mastering, leaving the instrumental feeling like a brick of sound at times, with no clear division or depth. When the waves of sound come in, they are too crowded for their own good. But once again, there is redemption afoot, with "Chances" standing as the most intensely emotional track on the album. The sadness is now tangible, magnified by the use of keyboards throughout.

While the transition from track to track is nearly flawless over the entirety of the album, it is patly because of the similarity between the tracks themselves. As "Chances" ends and "I, Alone" begins, they seem like parts of the same song, broken up by a momentary pause. The vocal tone grows in strength, reaching to the height of range in the chorus, joining with a pained growl in the verse. That combination, which sees very few uses, is a dynamic one. A few thundering drum fills peek through as well, adding some much needed depth of sound to the song. Much like the title states, "Loving Whispers" is exactly that; soft piano and keyboard harmonies take over, and carry with them the deep pain the main character must now suffer, having lost so much. But the story goes on, as "Desertion (Shades of the Future)" becomes the final chapter. Having seen the arc run its course, there is a sense of finality in every drum stroke and guitar riff here, as if the instrumental has grown right along with the tale itself.

It is nearly impossible to absorb all of the information that comes along with this album, without having to sit down, and truly pour over the story multiple times. Aetherfallen is just a name for a project that has visions beyond the music itself. And therein lies the complication this album leaves us with. The story itself is one of depth, meaning, and emotional investment. But is this album, musically, able to convey all of that? There are times when the two intersect; when the music truly echoes all that is going on in the world of these two people as they struggle to survive. But there are also times when the two feel disjointed and disconnected, only linked by the assertion that they are one and the same. Without a doubt, Hailen has given everything imaginable to make this all work, and it is beyond me to see how the pieces all fit together. But "Revelation’s Eternal," after several listens, with each more in depth than the last, leaves me with a thought that may or may not be common. In this case, the story exists without the album, as written on the main lyric site. But does the album make an impact without the back story? How do you separate, or rejoin, the two for maximum success?


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