Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hæthen - Shaped by Aeolian Winds

Black metal from the USA usually has a target on it's back, and rightly so for some bands but to lump them all into the hipster or post-black metal mold does not do the genre justice. Neither does lumping them into just being Norwegian scene worship bands because there are some bands that actually create memorable and honest black metal without being pretentious or going to the other extreme and being so "bedroom" it's not listenable. One of those bands is New Jersey/Philadelphia based Hæthen. This is a band that actually plays epic black metal with a touch of melody and monstrous riffs. Formed in 2009 they released their debut full length in December and it is a breath of fresh air.

After a rather interesting intro, they come open the album with "Taking the Auspices" and it become immediately apparent that we are actually dealing with a talented band who fuse entrancing tremolo riffs with an eerie atmosphere, creating a feeling of darkness and despair...all the things we love about black metal. Not intent on blasting their way through their songs but instead slowing it down in places to add more to the atmosphere. There's actually a melodic feel to this song and this album even though it's not right in front of you. It's in one of the layers that this band incorporates into it's music. There is even a progressive feel in some of the riffing. they have an epic air to them as well as they have a couple of songs on this album that are over ten minutes long but never lose your interest or become cumbersome to listen to. Instead this album flows between songs to be an album that is complete. "Amongst the Forlorn Larch" is one of those songs and is the perfect example of how this band can pull off epic with excellent hooks and more of those entrancing melodies provided by the riffs.

What I really admire about this band is the consistency in which they can write songs. As I mentioned previously, this album flows between songs as if this whole album tells a story but they allow the atmosphere of the music to tell that story. "Fragments of Spectral Uncertainty" is eleven minutes but only two short verses of lyrics coming at the last minute and a half of the song, but you can still feel what the band is trying to convey. There's a section in the middle of this song that slows down and really reminds me of very early Opeth with how they incorporate clean guitars and an almost psychedelic feel to the song only to fade the metal back in and finish the song with their brand of riffing with the tremolos talking. The title track is an instrumental that, for me, interrupts the flow slightly but doesn't make it take that much away from this album because, even though it does interrupt the flow slightly, it provides the perfect segue for "In Absence of the Eternal" which, when the two are put together, is then you can actually get why it's included where it is.

"Captured Within the Annulus" is an interesting song that starts with a very melodic folk vibe as you hear mandolins but then the tremolos kick right in without missing a beat. That's not the only part that makes this song interesting as there are so many layers to the song that it seems to go in different directions but seem to stay the path at the same time. Once again, this band seems to be able to go off into different directions with each of these epic numbers without ever losing focus on the song itself. They're not biting off more than they can chew. That's a testament of the talent and the abilities of this band. In fact, even though this is an album that should be listened to as a singular unit, I will actually say that this song should be pointed out as a standout track because it conveys everything that makes this album great one song.

So here we have an album that actually can be black metal without having to be singled out as USBM. The country of origin is actually irrelevant here except maybe to give some background to introduce the band. Bottom line here is that this is one impressive release by a band that has piqued my interest into hearing what else this band can do. I'm already awaiting their next album with great anticipation.


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