Deluge – ‘Aether’ Album Review

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Operating within that rarefied sphere of influence that exists between rampaging black metal and the atmospheric might of post-hardcore, Deluge take their cues from the likes of The Ocean (with whom Christophe Edrich has worked), Emperor and Winterfylleth, the music washing over the listener like the eponymous event, offering up an intoxicating brew of scarifying screams, razor sharp guitars and occasional snatches of melody buried deep within the howling maelstrom of crushing instrumentation. With stunning artwork from Metastazis recalling the aesthetic beauty of latter day Paradise Lost albums and The Ocean, ‘Aether’ is a mesmerising release that few artists can match in terms of scope and ambition.

Opening with the aptly named ‘avalanche’, the world of deluge is immediately revealed in all its schizophrenic glory with the band roaming between icy black metal riffs and ambient beauty in a mere four minutes without seeming rushed or overly convoluted. It’s a stunning opening track and it paves the way for the churning ‘Appat’ which neatly combines aching melody via shimmering leads and unutterable brutality via a devastating percussive assault and vocals torn from the mouth of the underworld. It remains true to the varied template established in the opening number, however, and once again you’re left astonished at the vast territory the band so successfully cover in just five short minutes. ‘Melas-Khole’ opens amidst the sound of the pouring rain and, as so many of the tracks do, it comes full-circle, returning thence at the song’s conclusion. In between, discordant riffs are ground out over a pummelling mid-tempo beat and the band lose themselves (and the listener) in a haze of ambient noise that verges on the beautiful. Emerging from the downpour, ‘Naufrage’ is a crushing beast that, rather than charging headlong,  lumbers toward the listener with an intimidating inevitability before unleashing its berserker cry at the last minute, tearing through the ranks massed against it with devastating ease. Furiously heavy, this is Deluge at their most feral and it is hard to resist the track’s relentless bludgeoning, although this track, too, is buried under a torrential downpour that draws the track to a close and allows for the maniacal ‘Houle’ to emerge, blinking and foaming at the mouth, into the light.

The second half of the album kicks off with ‘klartraumer’, a lengthy and incredibly detailed track that emerges from a single drone and then slowly builds to a melody that has more in common with the cure than cradle of filth. As the sound of the rain floods through the speakers, so the music slowly builds in urgency, the band eventually unleashing huge, frayed doom riffs that tear the mood to shreds. An epic, eight minute instrumental, ‘Klartraumer’ is varied and draws the listener yet further into Deluge’s unique heart of darkness. Stormy and brooding, ‘Vide’ opens subtly but soon introduces the molten guitars, building to a full-on black metal melt-down at around the half-way mark. ‘Hypoxie’ proves to be another epic, awash with atmosphere in ill-omened guitar work. Echoing in the darkness, the band remain unwilling to tip their hand too early with the result that, when they do finally unveil their strength, the listener is caught like a rabbit in the headlights, unsure of where to turn or where sanctuary may lie. The album concludes with the thunderous ‘Bruine’, a grinding nightmare that slowly devolves into a post-hardcore dreamscape that provides a fitting conclusion to the album.

Whilst Deluge are not without forebears, most notably the likes of The Ocean, Isis and Neurosis, they successfully place their own stamp on the music, indulging in far more blackened grind than any of the aforementioned acts. ‘Aether’ is an intelligent and genuinely progressive album that roams the dark landscape of black metal and post hardcore with aplomb. Whilst the darkness can seem overwhelming at times, the brief flashes of beauty are the calm at the heart of the storm and the sense of dynamic produced by these moments helps the album to fly by in what feels like a fraction of its run time. Beautifully played and produced, ‘Aether’ is a genre classic in the making and comes highly recommended.

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