Sometimes it’s appropriate to just say “Wow!” in response to an album. Sometimes words fail and emotions take over in wordless euphoric joy. This doesn’t happen to me very often, I consider myself a man of millions and millions of words but every now and then I’m stumped to find exactly the right words to say. I can say without equivocation that Veldes’ latest opus, “Ember Breathers” is the first album since starting Resounding Footsteps to truly take away my wordsmith skills. I thought I had the “Album of the Year” wrapped up but then I heard this album and it threw the whole thing into chaos.
This is an example of atmospheric black metal that sounds both unlike anything I’ve ever heard and the best of everything I’ve heard. Tilen Šimon, the man behind Veldes, is a musical mastermind and highly innovative. I’ve heard lots of acoustic sound in black metal before and by and large it was a distraction from the metal itself (with the notable exception of Satyricon’s early works). The acoustic instrumentation that Veldes employs is nothing new except that he is able to find a way to make it fit, to make it work alongside the grainy, raw electric sounds we crave in black metal. He’s able to slip in the acoustic sound almost without the listener noticing at all. He also employs the piano, not keyboards with their synthy over processed sound but piano, the ultimate instrument. Veldes is able to employ the forbidden instrument in black metal, and it’s not just in intros, interludes, or outros but the actual songs themselves. Shock! Gasp! But damn he knows how to play it too, it’s not just a gimmick to make him look unique. The music is crisp, the production solid; he clearly took his time making sure this music was exactly the way he wanted it, going through the entire painstaking process. This is the raw edge of black metal that shimmers like Bifröst, nothing quite equals it.
The songwriting, the lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation all add up to something misanthropically beautiful. It’s cold and dank but amidst the slow decay and grimness are little sprouts of beauty, inexorably standing against the stark depravity of the album. If you can master something like that then you know the formula for making excellent metal.
So yes, this album kicks some major ass. But what really makes it “Album of the Year” material? Quite simply it’s the amazing quality of the music, production, the sound, the lyrics (depressively naturalistic like Drudkh or Agalloch), and the vocals. It’s the mixture of everything physical (so to speak) about the album as well as the way it makes the listener feel, the emotional depth of this album surpasses nearly all others. Simply put this is “Album of the Year” material because it’s not just black metal that sounds really cool, it’s black metal that makes you feel something. If you have never heard of Veldes before now or have thought about listening to something he’s done now is the time. Ember Breathers is lightning in a bottle.
Listen and support!