Arthemesia - _a.O.a_
(Spinefarm Records, 2009)
by: Mark Dolson (9 out of 10)
In the eight years since their previous effort, _Devs Iratvs_ (2001), Finland's Arthemesia have changed quite a bit. While still playing atmospheric black metal, the band decided to slow things down considerably on _a.O.a_ -- almost doing away entirely with ferocious tremolo-picking and blast-beats (except for the last song), and opting for a more mid-paced, measured approach. While I liked their debut very much, it was sort of typical of the times, and vaguely reminiscent of older Dimmu Borgir, what with the dominant keyboards and overall icy atmosphere. By contrast, _a.O.a_ has much more of its own identity, not least because of the long, drawn out songs and the flirtation with experimentation here and there -- they actually incorporated the use of a saxophone in the last song, "Liber Omega (& The Macrocosm Manifest III)", and it works. And no, it's not used in the minimalist way that Pan.Thy.Monium used it back on _Dawn of Dreams_. In the last mentioned song, the saxophone actually takes on the main melody, and keeps it up through almost the entire duration.

As a totality -- lyrically and musically -- the album just oozes with atmosphere, particularly with respect to those mysterious forces of nature, and the more arcane or occult means through which to attain knowledge of it. As a brief aside, each time I listen to this album, it evokes such powerful images, like taking an evening walk through the woods in early spring -- that time of year when you can smell that sometimes intoxicating mixture of mud, dead leaves and water (there's a fairly large river that runs directly through the woods I used to frequent quite a bit in earlier days). I think what helps to achieve the distinct nature-oriented atmosphere of _a.O.a_are, 1) the songs titles, such as "Of the Owls, of the Wolves, and of the Nature: Revisiting the Microcosm (Part I)", or "The Nobel Elements"; and, 2) the use of samples of birds chirping and falling rain. Sure, it might sound hackneyed and overdone to some, but to me they add the perfect complement to this form of black metal.

Now, on to some specifics about the music: while keyboards are still present in the songs, they seem to have taken on a lesser role compared to _Devs Iratvs_. This is good, only inasmuch as it allows the guitars to take on a more dominant role -- with their mildly folksy melodies (not quite as overt as the Ensiferum-sounding melodies on the latter tracks of _Devus Iratvs_), and sweeping, drawn-out passages. As for the vocals, things haven't changed too much since the debut, in that Mr. Alpha Valtlas Mustatuul's vocals are still rather high-pitched and raspy; however, a significant change found on_a.O.a_ is the use of more massive choirs (male), not unlike something you would hear on some of Bathory's better albums, like _Hammerheart_ or _Twilight of the Gods_. This, to me, is what makes the album that majestic feel. Just listen to the absolutely epic "Valkoinen Susi" -- a thirteen minute atmospheric monster of a track. Nothing will ever take the place of Bathory, but this sure comes close.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/patheme

(article published 14/2/2010)


ALBUMS
5/13/2001 P Azevedo 8 Arthemesia - Devs-Iratvs
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