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Empyrium - Über den Sternen (2021) - Review

Band: Empyrium
Album title: Über den Sternen
Release date: 26 February 2021
Label: Prophecy Productions
Genre: Symphonic Folk, Doom Metal, Neofolk, Neoclassical, Black Metal

Tracklist:
01. The Three Flames Sapphire
02. A Lucid Tower Beckons On The Hills Afar
03. The Oaken Throne
04. Moonrise
05. The Archer
06. The Wild Swans
07. In The Morning Mist
08. Über den Sternen
09. The Crimson Heath [Bonus]

The German duo Empyrium are certainly not a band that is looking for quantity but is quality that matters, even if that means that many years can pass between two albums. In a way, their story reminds me of another masterclass band, the Austrians Summoning. And so after the 2014 released masterpiece, The Turn Of The Tides, Empyrium is back victorious. I guess that it's too early to talk about the best album of 2021, but I'm sure that this astonishing piece of musical art will be on the top of many lists. With their sixth full-length, Über den Sternen, Markus Stock and Thomas Helm are on their way to distant horizons. The two artists are discovering majestic ruins of medieval castles standing proud on rugged cliffs, watching the water spirits lurking in dark moorlands, and offered us a wide range of new sonic emotions. 

Before its official release, it was said, that Empyrium is returning to its roots, their unique and stylish folk/doom/black/symphonic output. More precisely to what they were doing on A Wintersunset... (1996) and Songs Of Moors & Misty Fields (1997), but the thing is not that simple. Yes, there are elements from their early years incorporated in this masterpiece, but in reality, we are dealing with a sonic product that has it all for what Empyrium is known today, and yet there's more. The dark neofolk, ambient and dark romanticism are in perfect balance with some acoustic, atmospheric and post-black or blackgaze elements to make this a fairytale of epic proportions. Empyrium offers eight immersive songs (nine on some editions) that bring shivers down the spine, and a kind of cinematic enlightenment sets the right mood and background curtain for the unimaginable storytelling journey.

Über den Sternen is just like any Empyrium album collection of songs where natural ambiences and deep feelings are set to music. This is an emotional journey of the two wanderers who went far into the places where magic gains life, fairytale creatures are more alive than you can dream of and lovers hearts are beating faster than ever. This epic ride starts with "The Three Flames Sapphire", a song that opens up the gates of the gloomy world and sets the mood for this dark yet fragile work. It's rare to hear such a coherent and unique cocktail of acoustic neofolk, neoclassicism, dark/black metal, symphonic music, yet sprouted with the mist of dungeon synth and dark ambient elements. There are plenty of breathtaking melodies, sweet and heart-rending passages, several mood changes, from the most tender, nostalgic, fragile to the glorious thundering blackened parts that leave you breathless. The saga continues with "A Lucid Tower Beckons On The Hills Afar", a song that in the beginning reminds to Summoning but soon draws the listener onto a mystical path painting a radiant sonic picture in a typical Empyrium manner. All the songs are full of introspective-unforgettable moments, almost every one of those goes into epic heights, and one of the most evocative must be "The Oaken Throne".

Beautiful acoustic guitar lines, great atmospheric keys, the use of dulcimer, flute, violin, viola and cello, are in perfect balance with driving melodic guitars and strong percussion. Helm with his deep operatic voice, and Schwadorf delivering gentle, profound clean half-spoken vocals and occasionally harsh ones, are in perfect balance. The two recorded heart-warming vocal melodies, allowing a glimpse into the deepest, most heartfelt places of the musicians' souls. The folk-tinged instrumental "Moonrise" calms things down for a little while before the "The Archer" hits the senses with its obscure expressive melancholic tone in a rather avant-garde medieval style to prepare you for the poignant sonic witchery "The Wild Swans". A song with such malevolently obscure ambience drags the listener by force out of this space and time into the misty medieval world full of glorious castles rising in the skies above the mighty forests and lakes. Before the majestic album titled closure comes up, Empyrium serves with another short instrumental moody particle named "In The Morning Mist". The epic, "Über den Sternen", is the darkest piece of this album. Mighty blackened vocals, heavy instrumental parts, shimmering gothic ambiences and symphonic passages make it the heaviest one but full of mind-blowing contrasts that can open up the gates of the otherworld.

Über den Sternen is simply breathtaking with such a dense and soothing ambience all over the album, frequently asking for another spin. Empyrium created a monumental and massive sonic dream world and believe me that it simply sweeps away with most of the music you've heard lately. With flamboyant atmospheric sound, immersive storytelling character, complex and divergent but overall flowing song structures, Empyrium amazes with gracefully adoring pathos and subtle melancholic grounding that aims for higher grounds. Even though that Über den Sternen incorporates the vintage Empyrium elements and the well-aspired fairytale tempera colours, it sounds fresh, warm and evocative by echoing this reconciliation of the old with the new creating a brand new musical level.

The review was written by Tomaz
Rating: 10/10

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