Empyrium – Über den Sternen


Artist: Empyrium

Album: Über den Sternen

Label: Prophecy Productions

Release Date: 26/02/2021

Country: Germany

Let’s take a look at Empyrium and their latest full-length album Über den Sternen, released on February 26th on Prophecy Productions.

The band hail from Hendungen, Germany and formed back in 1994. Since that time they have released numerous full-length albums, many of which have received widespread praise and recognition. Über den Sternen is the band’s sixth full-length album and follows their 2015 EP The Mill. The band is made up of two members, those being Schwadorf (vocals, guitars, bass, drums and percussion) and Thomas Helm (keyboards, piano and vocals).

Empyrium have been around for quite some time now and their name is well known within the metal community. The other thing about them that is well known is their heavy experimentation with folk influences. The band has employed them as an integral part of their music but done so in varying ways over the span of their career. On this particular release the album is somewhat of an equal parts neo-folk, post-black metal and doom metal album. The band labeled it dark metal and I would tend to agree there too. The heavy use of acoustic elements is also integral to the album’s overall sound and helps to distinguish it from other releases of a similar nature.

The primary focus of this release is atmosphere, the album is practically dripping in it. From start to finish this is an immersive listening experience that captivates the audience at all times. In fact, there’s something about the album that transports the listener back to a time when we lived in unison with nature and revered the forest and the night sky. There is definitely that sense of Pagan influence in the music and the folk elements work to expand on that essence in musical form. The band state, “Staying true to the Romantic tradition, Empyrium continue to take inspiration for their lyrical flights of fantasy from the local myths, ancient places, and natural wonders of the Rhön Mountains and their Lower Franconian homeland in the West of Germany.” Additionally, if you need further convincing, look no further than the lyrics on the album and they will confirm everything you suspected about the themes on the release. For example, here are the lyrics to track 3 The Oaken Throne which honestly read like poetry:

“Within the mist

The arms entwined

By moons enshrined

and softly kissed

The boughs so old

With leaves of gold

In autumns cloak

-The endless oak

Deep within the forests heart

The oaken throne

An ancient soul, a wooden guard

The tree of old

Centuries have seen its rise

Years thousandfold

It reigns upright, without demise

The oaken throne

Roots that touch the fire

of the earthen core

A crown that rose so tall

to where the eagles soar

Seat of kings alone

The oaken throne

Wisdom has been sown

The oaken throne”

The album is an even blend of harsh and soft, a duality in fact that embraces elements from the band’s past and present. The harsher, more electric driven elements are reminiscent of their earlier works which will please many older fans. The softer, folkier, more ambient elements are from their later career releases and help to balance out the album as a whole. This may be one of the band’s most interesting albums to date thanks to this marrying of styles which really gives us the best of both worlds.

Instrumentally speaking we have a fantastic blend of electric and acoustic elements. Guitars wise we have a good mix of electric and acoustic parts, both of which are played expertly. The two work to build different halves of the same whole. The acoustic work really does bring a lot of emotional depth and character to the album though. Keys wise we have both keyboard and piano, which add plenty of atmosphere to the mix and help to develop the immersiveness present in the music. Bass wise we have a rich tone but within measure, on this release the instrument is used to build atmosphere and depth, rather than to drive the music forward. Drums and percussion wise we have the same situation as the bass where they work to build atmosphere and add depth to the album rather than to drive it.

Lastly, we need to look at the vocals which are fantastic and varied. Firstly, we have the clean styles on the album, the first of which comes across as having gothic doom influences and suits both the emotional folk driven parts and the slower and heavier doom influenced elements. The second clean style is more often used without words and has almost a Gregorian chanting feel to it. It adds an almost epic feel to the music, especially when performed in harmonies, which it often is. Then we have the two harsh vocal styles on the release which bring a real edge to the music. The first are black metal in nature, which take us back to the band’s early release. These are however used sparingly on the album, giving them real effect when they are used. The second harsh style is of more of a doom death influence and is more guttural in nature and is used even more sparingly.

Overall, this is a truly solid release from a band that has consistently put out quality music for almost three decades. The album is a meeting point of past and present and takes some of the best elements from both. So, if you’re a fan of the band this is essential listening and if you’re not then this is a great way to discover them.

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