Every once in a while, a release will fall between the cracks, overlooked by all but those with their ears closest to the ground. Combing through Bandcamp looking for obscure black metal bands has led to some of my most fortunate discoveries: When Bitter Spring Sleeps, Violet Cold, Static Altars, Meslamtaea, and of course, Amiensus. These discoveries are one of the joys of the digital age, the thrill of digging into the mountain of music and emerging, covered in dirt and soot, but with a shiny gem or two. Though the fact that bands like Aminsus can be classified as “lucky finds” is indicative of one of the digital age’s biggest problems: in a sea of other hopefuls, it’s harder than ever to get noticed.
Though All Paths Lead to Death has been out for upwards of three months, I still feel the need to bring to people’s attention just how great this EP is. For those unfamiliar with Amiensus, they play an interesting style of black metal with a wide appeal, taking elements from bands like Sylosis, Enisum, and Agalloch and mixing them in with a healthy helping of classic black metal darkness. They combine the best of multiple world, bridging the gap between melodeath, thrash, folk and black metal, and they make it look easy. I only mention this, because All Paths Lead to Death (APLtD) is something of a departure from the band’s sound.
APLtD was written to be played on stage, and meant to be played loud. Rather than the band’s usual 50/50 balance between relentlessly riffy black metal and gentler, more contemplative quasi-folk melodies, Amiensus offer five tracks of rough n’ ready blackened death metal. The music is energetic, brimming with the youthful vigour of a band that’s just hitting its stride. Aside from the acoustic and folk elements, every strength from previous releases has been expanded on here. The riffs are more bombastic, the hooks run deeper, and the drums (recorded live) are drenched in aggressive alacrity. The vocals are stronger than they’ve ever been before, and the band’s frontman James Benson has said that he felt more confident in his vocal performance on APLtD than he has on any previous albums.
In terms of atmosphere, APLtD is much more apocalyptic and nightmarish than any of Amiensus’ previous work. It’s a dark EP, whereas the band’s previous albums all had a sense of hopefulness interlaced with the black and folk stylings. This certainly isn’t a complaint, however, as the change in tone makes it a refreshing change of pace in the band’s discography, a bit of variation in the face of the band’s upcoming album.
Each track goes through several twists and turns before reaching its respective climax, and there’s at least one moment in each song that’s worth skipping back a couple seconds to hear again. My one wish is that the bass guitar would have a little more pressence on the album, as it seems a little buried in the mix. In regards to the mix and mastering, the album received a serviceable audio job, nothing ever feels muddy or unclear, and there’s never any dynamic-squashing loudness, but there’s still the odd moment or two where an instrument feels ever so slightly out of place. This is easy to overlook however, when you consider the quality of the material at play here, though hopefully with the reemergence of the lighter folky material on their upcoming record we’ll see a more dynamic mastering job.
All said, APLtD is essential for Amiensus fans, a great starting point for those unacquainted, and a tantalizing appetite-whetter for the band’s forthcoming LP. It’ll go over excellently live, and makes for great headphone listening at night. While it’s dark, it’s also a fun, headbangable affair that shows a good band maturing into a great one, and if the band continue to make such impressive strides forward they’ll very quickly carve themselves out a comfortable niche amongst the best the genre has to offer.