Mallorca, Spain is where working class British people go to party, which means getting shitfaced and behaving like twats. Who’d have thought the island that hosts the notorious Magaluf resort is also home to a top-class Spanish metal band in Æolian? It’s as surprising as a world class thrash band emerging from somewhere sunny, like Brazil. Oh, wait a minute…
Æolian identify with the loose umbrella term of melodic death metal, but this is as much folk and black metal. For a quintet from a tourist destination, they did a great job roping in Edge of Sanity legend-cum-producer extraordinaire, Dan Swanö, to master the record. It’s rare to start a review with a eulogy to the studio production and mixing job, but The Negationist is a wonderful example of how extreme metal can tease out all sorts of differing sounds and moods with the right audio engineering skills.
These Spaniards are not a band to waste an opportunity to showcase their creativity and expansive ambition. Opening track, ‘Momentum’, is an epic black metal discharge of Ennio Morricone proportions with fast tremolo riffs and blast beats washed in the ecstasy of Daniel Pérez’s blood-gargling roar. The shred guitar and harmonizer pedal ensure it retains a foot in the heavy metal camp, but it could easily be a stripped back version of Dimmu Borgir and just as imperious as the Norwegian masters. On ‘Animal Burned’ they mix power metal double-kick patterns with syncopated rock riffs and folk interludes. This band are not short of ideas and always keep the pulsating death metal growls at the core of their sound. Sometimes the melodies dominate the songs despite the fast tempos and aggressive vocals. ‘We Humans’ and ‘Children of Mud’ employ the baroque scale sequencing of the guitars to great effect like folk-metal heavyweights, Falconer. Listen to ‘Unseen Enemy’ and you’ll notice the influence of Paradise Lost’s classic 1993 album, Icon, on the guitar sound and melody. It’s a strand that runs through the entire record right through to the closing track, ‘Reborn’, which mixes Arch Enemy with gothic and black metal elements.
Standout track, ‘Blackout,’ is where the band show their true talent. The vocals are pure power metal and the guitars a speed metal ensemble worthy of Judas Priest and Helloween. But this is heavier than an English hangover on the band’s native beaches of Mallorca. The vibration on Leoben Conoy’s bass strings will make your fingers tremble in empathy, but the highlight is Raúl Morán and Gabi Escalas’s guitar alternation between Black Sabbath and Megadeth in the verse and chorus sections of the song. Drummer, Alberto Barrientos, is just as colossal behind the kit.
Though not quite prog metal, Æolian drop many hints that this may be where they’re heading in future. The violins and French horns are subtle but effective, and the lyrical narrative of fighting for the environmental health of the planet for the next generation is one that will resonate with many (and also bore others to death). But a few issues arise as you progress beyond the three-quarter mark. First of all, where are the choruses? Epic metal deserves a regular production line of anthemic soundbites to keep the fists pumping, but the band hold back on too many occasions. They also exploit the guitar harmonizer pedal to the point of exhaustion. At the mid-way section, you’re hoping for some chunky breakdown riffs or crunchy thrash hooks to keep the brutality on par with the melody. Unfortunately, they veer too far towards the latter, like the early In Flames records.
But when you’ve got a winning formula and a plethora of ideas to play around with, it’s understandable that you might want to develop them as far as possible into one coherent package. In this respect, Æolian are a success and can already claim to have found their sound. What they do on their next album will be even more interesting, but this is a good blast of blackened melodeath that deserves a wider audience.
Release Date: 20/11/2020
Record Label: Black Lion Records
Standout tracks: Momentum, Animals Burned, Blackout
Suggested Further Listening: Moonsorrow – Verisäkeet (2005), Paradise Lost – Icon (1993), In Flames – Colony (1999)