Aether Realm – Redneck Vikings from Hell


Back in the relative calm of 2017 a band unknown to this reviewer released a wonderful concept album based on the Tarot deck. It was certainly a top 10 album of the year and showcased a band at the top of their game. An apt description would be an infectious slice of melodic death metal displaced from the frozen north of Finland to the southern United States. Each track had an individual identity and the whole was as great as its collected parts.

Whilst hotly anticipating the new album yours truly heard the single ‘Goodbye’ and thought he was hearing a different band. This was still melodeath but wearing a cream short sleeve suit and riding a speedboat with Don Johnson through the 1980s. Imagine technical lead work coupled with EDM flourishes throughout and sporting instantly infectious choruses. Different but fantastic, you might say. So, with intrigue piqued, this reviewer wondered whether the album would show further evolution or a complete change of direction.

The opening title track speeds out of the blocks like Turisas drunk on moonshine, with banjos aplenty and amateur dramatic voiceovers. It comes close to the crass nonsense peddled by certain pirate metal bands, yet it remains on the right side of goofy without sounding ridiculous. ‘Guardian’ is a classic metal ballad that Foreigner would be proud of. Simplistic rhyming couplets open the song before the band reach for the stadiums and build it into a ‘lighters in the night’ anthem (or should that now be smartphones). ‘Craft and the Creator’ is an instrumental progressive metal masterpiece, holding your attention for the whole of its eleven-minute duration. They even create an anthem for their fans with the magnificent ‘Tmhc’ (Tiny Metal Hand Crew for those in the know).

As an album, Redneck Vikings from Hell, moves the band further onward from the clear Ensiferum and Children of Bodom influences of yore. It’s still melodeath at its core, but additional speed metal, thrash, sunset strip sounds, and power ballad elements are now part of the melting pot. At times they try to frame this approach with as many influences as possible, and in the hands of a less capable band this could be a disaster. Yet the aforementioned ‘Guardians’ and ‘Goodbye’ are the only seismic shifts in sound as the band add a multitude of elements to their core structure, and it’s all the better for it.

Aether Realm are never hindered by self-doubt, nor do they play to a specific crowd. The strength of the record is within its diversity and genre hopping. Musicianship is of the highest order and the lead breaks from Donny Burbage and Heinrich Arnold deserve special mention. It is the sound of a band having a great time and producing memorable and exciting music. They should be lauded for producing something they wanted to make and not just maintaining the status quo. 

So, crack a beer open with the boys in the realisation that music is not meant to be dissected but enjoyed wholeheartedly.

KHH


Verdict


Release Date: 01/05/2020

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Goodbye, Lean into the Wind, She’s Back

Suggested Further Listening: Ensiferum – Victory Songs (2007), Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light (2012), Children of Bodom – Follow the Reaper (2000)