I was first introduced to Aephanemer, what seems like many moons ago, through their song “Bloodline” off their sophomore album ‘Prokopton’ – it starts heavy and strong with the immediate impression that this band would go VERY far musically. With their first album ‘Memento Mori’ bringing the band’s origins to my ears from 2016, I was immediately captivated by their song “Unstoppable” for its beautiful mix of classic symphonic sound and its ear-shattering guitar work.
Aephanemer was formed in the southern region of Toulouse, Occitanie, France in 2013 – laying the foundations of the symphonic melodic death metal genre out for the rest of the world. They combine the elements of classic symphony with melodic death metal which has not only garnered them the attention of Napalm records, but with fans worldwide. Their impeccable live performances, and skillful musicality helped them to stand out, and allowed them the opportunity to work with Napalm Records to re-release their album ‘Prokopton’ in 2019.
The album is brought in gently through the intro of “Land of Hope” which gave us a deceptive glimmer into what was to come. It’s quickly followed by “Antigone” which is a dive into the death metal Aephanemar is known for. The relentless speed of this track combined with soul-splitting guitar work is only an addition to Marion’s brutal screams and grungy growls. It’s a leap into a darkened timeline with shadows lurking around every corner, only increasing in terror with the symphonic breaks that caress our ears.
The first track I sampled, “Of Volition”, begins with an eerie calmness that quickly infects the mind with heavy, harmonious drumming, thick backing bass, and wicked riffs. Naturally the combined works of Lucie Woaye-Hune, Mickael Bonnevialle, and Martin Hamiche are absolutely stunning from the very beginning. Symphonic orchestration keeps the beat alive with its classic tone and familiar tune while the vocals of Marion Bascoul, as expected, tear through the ears with unmatched admiration.
Tracks like “Le Radeau de La Méduse”, and “Roots and Leaves” bring the familiar sound of Prokopton back to your ears with timeless riffs, elegant symphony, and quick but, untamed vocals. Marion’s harsh growls scratch passionate lyrics into the back of your mind, making them repeat over and over for an endless longing of repeat listening.
“Vague à l’âme” is a divine short with brilliantly composed guitar work and heart-wrenching orchestration. It is a short but, elevated piece that breaks up the heat of the album. Tear-jerking, high-pitched guitar solos echoed with instrumental elegance perfect this as it leads into yet another fearsome, string-lead track.
“Strider” – which quickly became my favourite from the album, descends into the deep with an immediate drop into brutal breakdowns. Marion’s growls only add to the brutality of this formal feeling, yet unique song. The speed and enigmatic sound take a slow turn, once more welcoming in the sophistication of symphony at the middle of the song, only to re-introduce us to the ferocity that is Aephanemer. A solid bass followed by hastened drumming is only further enhanced by the powerful chords and vocal range displayed on this track; this allowed me to swiftly put it on repeat.
“Panta Rhei,” debuted with a music video on September 16th, 2021 via YouTube and has already amassed more than 400 000 views. It’s hard to deny the level of splendor in this melody with lyrics like “rivers are called by many names. Even if their natures seem to be diverse, water remains to stay the same.” Riveting guitar solos battle throughout this track, once more featuring what feels like only a fraction of the musical skill that Aephanemer has to offer us.
The title track, “A Dream of Wilderness” is as captivating as the album itself with ghostly backing vocals embraced by heavy, speedy drums and powerful bass. The speed of this track is elusive as the gentle orchestration at its back adds notes of lingering fluidity touching on grace with only rigid riffs and howling vocals to keep us chained to reality. Still, the story that fills your mind as you listen is painted in vivid blacks and whites while you wander through endless forests and travel up the highest mountains.
The diverseness of this album is mind-splitting with guttural growls, speedy riffs, headbanging drums, and grungy bass that all seem to fit seamlessly with their synth and symphonic essences. Added bonuses of “An Old French Song” and the French version of “Le Radeau de La Méduse” only amplify the level of dedication that Aephanemer takes in their craft. This album takes every high above the clouds and travels every low beneath the deepest caverns to gift us with “A Dream of Wilderness” that can never be tamed.
1. Land of Hope
3. Of Volition
4. Le Radeau de La Méduse
5. Roots and Leaves
6. Vague à l’âme
8. Panta Rhei
9. A Dream of Wilderness
10. Old French Song (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Cover)
11. Le Radeau de La Méduse (French Version)
12. Antigone (Instrumental)
13. Of Volition (Instrumental)
14. Le Radeau de La Méduse (Instrumental)
15. Roots and Leaves (Instrumental)
16. Strider (Instrumental)
17. Panta Rhei (Instrumental)
18. A Dream of Wilderness (Instrumental)