Aeternam – Al Qassam (Self-Released)Monday, 11th May 2020
Coming to this scribe’s awareness a couple of years back for their North American tour with Týr and Orphaned Land, Aeternam are a Canadian band combining elements of melodic death, symphonic, folk, and blackened elements in a unique manner. Together since 2007, early on they released their debut Disciples of the Unseen in 2010 on Metal Blade before moving on to Galy Records for the Moongod follow-up – by 2017 staying independent on the record front, bringing us to the current fourth full-length Al Qassam. These nine songs tantalize creative muscles in an exotic/Middle Eastern meets Oriental framework while keeping the solid earworms, hooks, and harmony aspects necessary to catch the listener and keep them returning to the material for repeated, deeper exposures.
In other words, you’ll hear grandiose orchestration supplementing the metal elements – but never overshadowing the natural bass, drums, and guitar components for Aeternam. Elements of Orphaned Land and Nile show up in the main riffs / transitions for “Lunar Ceremony” as an example, but never obliterate the listener in technical prowess. In fact, Orphaned Land’s Kobi Farhi provides his uplifting vocalization as a guest on “Palmyra Scriptures”, an alluring folk/exotic track featuring rhythmic claps, acoustic instrumentation, and lower registry harmonies that provides mid-album respite from the heavier proceedings. Progressive drumming/ percussion from Antoine Guertin allows the churning wall of electric guitars room to pulsate during “Hanan Pacha”, an effort that fluctuates between extreme blasting sections and churning mid-tempo heaviness, making me think of Wolfheart one second and then Septic Flesh meets Evergrey the next. As a vocalist, guitarist Acharf Loudly has an amazing capacity to pick and choose his spots for growls, screams, and addictive clean melodies – his phrasing, enunciation, and emotion penetrating through killer songs like “The Bringer of Rain” and the shapeshifting closer “Poena Universi”. The record at just under 45 minutes contains the right dynamic musical information possibly without exhausting the listener – allowing for subsequent appreciation through headphone use to hear those deeper layers of instrumentation or vocal combinations.
Aeternam illustrate the wide array of influences that can take shape into a cohesive style while remaining focused and sharp for listeners to appreciate. Al Qassam hopefully will continue the upward ascension in popularity for this quartet.