Empyrium - The Turn of the Tides
Prophecy
Neofolk
7 songs (43' 29")
Release year: 2014
Empyrium, Prophecy
Reviewed by Andy

After a 12-year wait since their last full-length, Empyrium is back with an almost 100% neofolk (non-metal) album, in the form of The Turn of the Tides. I hadn't listened to Empyrium before so I didn't know what to expect, but I can advise fans of their older folk metal releases that expecting full-on metal songs on this album will lead to disappointment. The atmosphere is good, though, and the neofolk leanings are tempered by the heavier stuff towards the ends of several of the songs, keeping them at least grounded in the metal world a bit. It's not Agalloch, but it's not Nest -- more like something on a range between those two artists.

Savior, the opening track, is driven by piano and soft, symphonic strings with acoustic guitar tremolo-picking in the background. It's got a big sound like a movie soundtrack, with lots of dramatic stops and starts, with gentle baritone vocals (I couldn't tell whether it was guitarist Ulf Schwadorf, or keyboardist Thomas Helm on vocals) singing flatly but in a very operatic manner, trailing off to a line sung over and over. Dead Winter Ways is better, more guitar-driven. It's also darker and more focused, which makes it a perfect vehicle for a much-needed taste of metal they give us towards the end of the track, still with symphonic elements backing it. In the Gutter of This Spring is like that too -- slow and acoustic with metal at the end -- but this one doesn't seem to be pulled off quite as well as its predecessor. There's plenty of gorgeously-produced, slow, black-metal tremolo here, however, and The Days Before the Fall, which follows the same pattern as the last two, has the best electric guitar work out of all three.

Despite the atmosphere of the songs and the combination of metal, the sonic palette used is pretty restrained. The songs are almost all soft, regretful, and slow, the vocals are rich but filled with sadness, and there is very little speed or even drumming; We Are Alone is even quieter and more minimalistic than its fellows, consisting almost solely of piano and the vocals. Unfortunately, I found it boring as hell, which is why With the Current Into Grey is so nice to encounter right after it. On this one, the drums and bass have a reasonably fast beat, there is more guitar soloing, and the song's melody is simply more interesting. It's still gentle and the band takes its time on this one, but at least it has some power behind it, and I consider it one of the best songs on the album. The final title track is long, almost completely instrumental with some spoken word bits and plenty of choir aahs. That one is mostly guitar-driven and the sound is beautiful...but oh...so...sloooowwww....

I think many metal listeners will find The Turn of the Tides just too slow and contemplative for its own good, but while it'd be hard to recommend this album for any headbanging purposes, it is nonetheless a beautiful piece of work with excellent production values. I'd recommend it as a crossover for fans of the slowest and most ambient atmospheric black metal styles -- or for anyone who wants to take a break from more brutal musical styles and listen to something gentler, but still containing some steel at its core.

Killing Songs :
Dead Winter Ways, The Days Before the Fall, With the Current Into Grey
Andy quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Empyrium that we have reviewed:
Empyrium - Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays reviewed by Nathanael and quoted 95 / 100
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There are 3 replies to this review. Last one on Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:17 am
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