Requiem Aeternam - Philosopher
Progressive/ Black/ Death laced with acoustics
8 songs (46:20)
Release year: 2004
Reviewed by Nathanael

With the unfortunate amount of cloning and overall lack of originality currently taking place in heavy metal, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear an album like Philosopher. A surprisingly coherent mix of styles ranging from power, progressive, black and death, this three piece have crafted a complex yet enjoyable listening experience that should appeal to a wide range of metal fans.

Hailing from Uruguay of all places, Requiem Aeternam started out in 1995 with a line-up that consisted of current Opeth members Martin Lopez and Martin Mendez, as well as Pablo Magallanes and Jose Romero, the only remaining original member and driving creative force behind the band. Releasing their Eternally Dying EP in 1997 and debut album of the same name in 1998, Romero then moved to New York in 2002 following the band’s Eternally Tour in South America. After landing a new line-up consisting of Maciej Kupszewski on bass and Immolation’s Alex Hernandez on drums, the band was finally ready to record a the follow-up to their debut album.

It appears all of the line-up changes and time since Eternally Dying has paid off in a big way. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to approach an analysis of an album like Philosopher. For starters this is a concept album, as each song deals with the work of a specific philosopher such as Nietzche, Kierkgaard and Rousseau to name a few. As for the music itself, this album has many faces. Romero’s varied guitar work ranges from speedy tremolo riffs and equally quick solos to soft acoustics and more Opeth-like grooves. In fact, one of the only things I can say about this album for certain is that I can only really compare Requiem Aeternam to Opeth. However, other than the main riff in the extended piece Logos and the continuous manipulation of dynamics from heavy to acoustic and growled to clean vocals, Requiem Aeternam don’t really sound anything like Opeth. Much of this can be attributed to the black metal blasts of Wisdom and the untitled eighth track, the speedy death/ thrash influenced Desperation and the more progressive rock-oriented Liberty. This is exactly the kind of variety and originality that should get a band like Requiem Aeternam more attention than the overwhelming amount of metalcore and melodic death clones but unfortunately the world is far from perfect. Regardless, these guys come off sounding surprisingly different which is something that is hard to come by these days.

As for the drum work by Alex Hernandez, prepare to be amazed. This guy manages to cover the entire repertoire of heavy metal drumming on this album with unbelievable ease, while flavoring the soft acoustic passages with astounding grace. Never letting his ego take control of the sticks, this guy knows exactly how to go with the flow, whether fast and aggressive or steady and subdued. Unlike most metal drummers, he knows how to work the entire kit without drawing any attention away from the music’s focus.

While I am extremely impressed with this album, the band still has some slight room for improvement in the vocal department. Now I understand that English is not Romero’s first language, but had they hired a professional extreme and clean vocalist this album could have very well been flawless. Though Romero does get the job done, his clean vocals do sound a bit stretched at times, a fact that is unfortunately emphasized by his noticeable accent. As for his extreme voice, it also gets the job done but I would recommend that they either find a new vocalist or that Romero work extra hard on improving his own for the band’s next studio release.

Minor gripes aside, Requiem Aeternam have put South America back on the metallic map and given me a reason to remain optimistic when considering the future of heavy metal. Considering that this is only their second full-length, I can’t help but believe that the best is yet to come. Should this prophesy be fulfilled, these guys will surely become a household name in the near future. Keep up the good work!

Killing Songs :
Nathanael quoted 88 / 100
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There are 2 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Feb 28, 2005 5:13 pm
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