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Aquilus - Bellum II review




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Reviewer:
8.2

102 users:
8.09
Band: Aquilus
Album: Bellum II
Style: Ambient, Atmospheric black metal, Symphonic black metal
Release date: May 2024


01. By Tallow Noth
02. Into The Earth
03. A Solitary Demise
04. Nigh To Her Gloam
05. Sombre Loom
06. My Frost-Laden Vale
07. Amidst Soughing Tristesse
08. The Pillared Dark

Aquilus returns to Bellum for an epic Part II; has he succeeded?

The standards of solo metal projects is exceptional; it still never quite ceases to amaze me just how much of an impact a single talented musician can have, when one considers the likes of Quorthon of Bathory, Varg Vikernes of Burzum, or Nimblkorg of Shylmagoghnar. Australian composer Horace Rosenqvist (Waldorf), the mastermind behind atmospheric/symphonic black metal act Aquilus, can certainly be counted as being up there with the very best of them. Despite having formed back in 2000, it wasn't until just over a decade later that the full-length debut Griseus was unleashed. For a debut, this was quite simply a remarkable effort that was extremely highly praised by many, and it really spoke volumes for Waldorf's outstanding musicianship as the sole mastermind behind such a work of art. However, it was to be another 10 years later before we were to be introduced to the highly anticipated sophomore Bellum I.

Although Bellum I never quite lived up to the majestic high standards of Griseus, it was still a highly praised and tremendous effort, and so Bellum II only promised to naturally follow suit. Much like Bellum I, Bellum II is an album on a scale of colossal proportions; within its hefty hour-long duration, Waldorf composes and orchestrates a variety of styles and influences, ranging from atmospheric and symphonic black, to neoclassical and neofolk, adding progressive and meloblack elements along the way. The atmospheric soundscapes also follow suit from previous releases, maintaining a bleak and majestic feeling. However, there's plenty of help at hand from session musicians Zebadee Scott (percussion), Hayley Anderson and Troy Schafer (violin), Annemari Välipelto (operatic vocals), and Sara Orania (fipple flutes).

This album has 8 tracks in total, which range from fewer than 3 to over 15 minutes in length. An epic symphonic intro titled "Tallow Noth" kicks things off, and sets the album's ambience in motion as it flows into the first main track, "Into The Earth". Here, listeners become dazzled by the abundance of elements within Aquilus' trademark style. There are two main styles at work here, the first layer being more classical instrumentation-based, featuring wonderful sweeping acoustic melodies, backing choirs, mesmerizing symphonic orchestrations, and an array of classic instruments from classic flutes and violin through to piano. Conversely, the second layer is of a more straightforward black metal approach, delivering furious blackened tremolos, ferocious blast beats, and harsh blackened shrieks. These contrasting elements are mixed and mastered in exemplary fashion. The album, for the most part, carries on in the same vein, although there is first "A Solitary Demise", an interlude featuring a beautiful piano piece and stunning, weeping violin strings.

The first of the two 15+ minute epics is "Nigh To Her Gloam", which many would rightly consider a standout track. This song creates a bleak, grim, and chilling atmosphere, almost giving the listener a sense that one is grieving, and the structure throughout its lengthy runtime is quite complex, even progressive. The vocals range from singing choirs, to whispering and harsh shrieks, while the instrumentation once again varies from stunning classic instrumentation and symphonies through to classic black metal with an atmospheric touch. The second of the mighty epics is the 17-minute "My Frost-Laden Vale", also a personal highlight. Simply put, this magnificently constructed song is an epic journey that requires a lot of time and patience to get the full grasp of its true majesty, which in turn sums up the true epic side of Aquilus.

Bellum II is a more than worthy follow-up to an already impressive first part. This might not be the easiest listening experience to begin with, but with time and patience, and also the right mood, it's an experience you simply have to get on board with. If you're someone who has an appetite for atmospheric black metal but also a taste for classic instrumentation, then Aquilus can do you no wrong. This one-man project (yes, one man!) is amongst the best in the atmospheric black business; he's proven his capabilities yet again, and hopefully there's even more to come: Bellum III, maybe?


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 10





Written on 14.05.2024 by Feel free to share your views.


Comments

Comments: 3   Visited by: 62 users
14.05.2024 - 22:17
ForestsAlive
I find this album really hard to digest. While the musician(s) involved are clearly talented, they still lack experience in songwriting. There are just so many pieces, parts, interludes etc that follow one another without cohesion and structure.

More repeating patterns and motifs would have made the experience way more enjoyable. The band needs to dive deeper into the golden eras of Opeth or Theater that managed to be busy, yet catchy and memorable.
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15.05.2024 - 00:16
Rating: 9
24emd
Theory Snob
This combined with Bellum I is just earth-shattering. Thanks for the awesome review.
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15.05.2024 - 02:17
Rating: 9
Doge of Venice
Written by ForestsAlive on 14.05.2024 at 22:17

I find this album really hard to digest. While the musician(s) involved are clearly talented, they still lack experience in songwriting. There are just so many pieces, parts, interludes etc that follow one another without cohesion and structure.

More repeating patterns and motifs would have made the experience way more enjoyable. The band needs to dive deeper into the golden eras of Opeth or Theater that managed to be busy, yet catchy and memorable.


I hear you, but I honestly believe that this isn't really a 'metal' band in the traditional sense. They've never wrote songs that follow a conventional rock/metal structure, and so it goes here, even with the shorter tracks. The longer tracks all seem to be following a 'through composed' approach that sets aside repeating sections and motifs for a more linear, non-repeating narrative.

I'm not saying your opinion isn't fair, I just don't think that what you're wanting is what they're trying to do - for the most part.

Though it'll be interesting to see if he incorporates motifs and repeating structures more in future albums.
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