Two Decades In, Amestigon Deliver a Career Best

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Amestigon have been at it for a while–the Austrian black metal group entered its second decade this year–and while they may be far from a household name, it’s hardly for any fault of the music. Since 1995’s Mysterious Realms demo, releases like 1998’s Höllentanz EP have shown Amestigon to be capable of creating music just as dramatically affecting as any of the genre’s most vaunted titans.

With each subsequent release, the band has built further and further upon their sound, culminating in 2010’s monstrous Sun of All Suns. Taking into account the members’ other work in bands like Abigor, Summoning, Fall Time. and Pazuzu (among others) and the tremendous rate at which their music has developed between releases, Thier, the band’s second (!) album, had the potential to be so massive it would topple under its own weight, the music crushed under a toppling mountain of grand gestures and heavy-handedness.

Fortunately, the members of Amestigon carry with them enough discipline to dispel any such notions of doubt within the first few minutes of Thier’s opener “Demiurg.” None of the album’s four tracks are under the ten minute mark, but remarkably the strongest trait of its 57-minute running time is precision. It takes terrific ingenuity to craft compositions of such length without inundating the listener with filler, but this is exactly where Amestigon succeed so well.

Every piece of Thier is essential to the running of its course. For as expansive as the songs are, nary a superfluous minute is to be found throughout the album. Though each song contains dozens and dozens of riffs and sections, none are placed simply for gratuitousness’s sake. Musicality is never sacrificed for complexity. Every wash of chords and technical guitarwork is delivered with an indubitable tactile presence.

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Vague attempts to hide behind “shoegaze” or rawness have no place on Thier. Amestigon imbue every note with a courage of convictions rare in any music, and this quality gives the album its characteristic intense physicality. With this concrete trait comes a more sublime one, its metaphysical leanings. Thier is not heavy in a “brutal” sense. Of course its most base characteristics are heady riffs and powerful drumming, but the primary feeling it conveys is one of a pure emotional battle, the sound of unending struggle butting up against the indomitable will of the individual and ultimate triumph.

Thier’s emotional resonance is rare for the members of Amestigon. With their other, perhaps higher-profile groups like Abigor and Summoning, emphasis is put on primal rage and high fantasy of the Tolkien school, respectively. Though the sounds Thier offers are dark and forbidding in a manner that can seem cold or distant at times, the album’s real surprise is its warmth.

In spite of the grandiosity of each song and the album as a whole, the intimacy of the whole affair is its greatest strength, though perhaps its most delicate. Tired as the analogy may be, the album plays out like a roller coaster of intensity, building in strength before releasing a magnificent sigh of relief echoing out across canyons. The music is a vessel filled to the point of exuberant bursting, and every moment carries the spark of careful thought and spontaneous action.

Twenty years into their career, Amestigon have released what is sure to be their defining work, a transcendent musical communion deserving of any praise it receives. Hardly a low point is to be found throughout the album, with every segment coming together into one massive piece worth so much more than any one part. Any expectations for what Amestigon would deliver or were even capable of delivering two decades after Mysterious Realms have appropriately been shattered. Thier is essential listening.

Amestigon’s Thier is out May 28th on W.T.C. Productions.

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