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Aquilus: Griseus

The problem with dense records, or films even, is that they're really easy to blow off, especially considering the time period of "shuffle." Aquilus does no favors by having eight tracks last 80 minutes, but I feel like he (yes, one-man band) had to do it this way if only to be a representation of that type of product. Another period we're in is that of an excess of self-indulgent, hybrid metal groups who only have the flair but not the depth, and it is hard for many to differentiate between which of these bands is worth the time. Aquilus will inevitably come off like "just another" to a lot of people, however re-listens of this will be, in hindsight, venerated, reasons for which which I will meagerly try to make a case.

By fortune, this is not necessarily a metal act. There are metal parts, but there are more folk sections, and overtop orchestrated strings, some piano breaks here and there, but really it's safer to just call it music. Waldorf, the man of Aquilus, pulls no punches, yet nor does he overstep. Firstly, one gets the impression, and this is besides the fact of many layers, that these songs were methodically cultivated, and secondly it's pretty obvious these aren't amongst his first written songs, so being a "debut" is only true in the sense it's his first full-length (under this band). In any case, Waldorf, with his many musical influences ranging from the medieval to black metal to film scores, and with his many envisages, snapshots of a scene, provides the kind of intimate experience one could get with, for example, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Camille Saint-SaŽns in terms of incepting imagery and story with music. That is easily the most important element and why this album works.

Therein, the record freely evolves through style shifts. One will notice within the first two tracks, where "Nihil" is like a blackened, darker Opeth (inevitable, sorry) with more symphonics, amongst thespian backdrops, and the ensuing "Loss" is much more melancholic, piano interludes or mid-tempo metal, but mainly the piano, which is a mix between Romantic classical and 20th century minimalism. Thankfully there is a fair share between clean and growled vocals, of which are generally higher pitched, and for both I can't complain, aside from the outro of "Loss" featuring a black metal choir, which doesn't make sense since growled vocals are a rhythm instrument.

It's almost futile to continue explaining more styles he uses given how much space that would take, and how redundant it would become, but the general theme is darkness, which is unfortunate in some ways. It doesn't help the runtime and nor does the near-constant presence of strings. Nevertheless, in songs like "Arboreal Sleep" or "Night Bell", you will get some wonderful passages of somber piano weaving around the more sinister structures, as well as touching acoustic/string episodes. The folk bits always tend to be cut short and only sometimes go all-out folk, like with "In Lands of Ashes" or the somewhat mirthy end of "Latent Thistle" (he needs to explore this paragon next time), but the metal bits are always quite fulfilling, like the blistering beginning of "Latent Thistle" or the major highlight, behemoth middle melodies of "The Fawn."

Does it matter that the strings aren't real? Nope, Vienna or whatever he's using works almost as well, and they serve much more purpose than you'd expect. Does it matter that the production isn't slightly necro? Probably to some, but it wouldn't make sense since it's not really metal overall. What matters is that Waldorf is an ambitious Aussie on the verge of receiving a large cult following. Much like Pensťes Nocturnes' fabulous record Grotesque, Griseus is, in many respects, a hybrid album of its time, yet still far more spirited than most of its contemporaries, and if Aquilus is able to transcend the merely hybrid style, which he is already pretty close to doing, this band will become exceedingly important in the future in forward-thinking music. Griseus is a good place to start that path, both for Waldorf and you.

Track Listing
1. Nihil
2. Loss
3. Smokefall
4. In Lands of Ashes
5. Latent Thistle
6. Arboreal Sleep
7. The Fawn
8. Night Bell

Added: May 1st 2012
Reviewer: Danny Heater
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 3367
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Aquilus: Griseus
Posted by James M. Peterson on 2014-11-21 03:03:15
My Score:

I applauded you the moment you mentioned "Romantic era classical"
I feel that SO hard with this record. I would VERY VERY highly recommend you check out the album "The Nightspectral Voyage" by Obsidian Gate as well if you can get the time. The only symphonic black record besides this that is on the same level of quality. Has that same influence and sense of drama and storytelling but is metal throughout it's entirety.

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