Album review: EMPYRIUM – The Turn Of The Tides

EMPYRIUM – The Turn Of The Tides

Prophecy Productions – Out Now.

When Markus Stock, otherwise known as Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, decided to put his Dark Symphonic Folk Metal project Empyrium to rest back in 2002 he did so by claiming that the band needed to “move on and made a glorious farewell to the concept”.

While his decision to work again under the said moniker with long standing collaborator/colleague Thomas Helm comes against the above statement made a good twelve years ago, the world of atmospheric/emotionally charged music is quite relieved and more than happy to welcome its German prodigal sons back, especially as this reformation of sorts is responsible for the release of an album of such sheer quality as “The Turn Of The Tides”.

In their fifth studio album to date, the duet has pretty much abandoned all elements that betray its Dark Metal roots, especially with regards the vocal department, but has gone out of its way to compensate its loyal and patient fans by creating seven beautiful and cleverly crafted compositions.

These compositions feature impressive clean vocals of pompous/operatic quality and ridiculous amounts of top quality melodic themes – themes that are championed by the piano and the electric guitar in equal measure but which gracefully acquire the assistance of choral vocal themes and light string/wind instrument orchestrations in order to bring their point across.

Sounds pretty special, right? You bet!

It is absolutely impossible to put into words the feeling that one gets when first listening to the emotionally-draining but also truly satisfying piano opening melody of the six and a half minute “Saviour”, a feeling that develops into a slight addiction when the light wind instrument orchestrations of “Dead Winter Ways” make their rather shy entry.

Opening with a soul-searching keyboard melody and incorporating a guitar melody the likes of which I have never heard since the Greek Rock legends Πυξ Λαξ (Pyx Lax) took their final bows back in 2004, “In The Gutter Of This Spring” is proof of the band’s ability of creating layered but accessible music while the stripped down piano-meets-vocals “We Are Alone” comes across as the natural successor of the previous piece.

“The Days Before The Fall” is an organ-led oriental-themed piece which gracefully combines guitar and string instrument melodies while “With The Current Into Grey” offers the listener with an equally melodic but more up-beat alternative.

It is at this moment, when you feel that you have heard everything that this album has to offer, that you are presented with the same-titled masterpiece “The Turn Of The Tides”.

Opening with a painful guitar harmony and featuring otherworldly choral chants, discreet guitar melodies and ambient sound samples this is as close as one gets to having a religious experience through the medium of music and the best way to conclude such a consistent, quality-driven release.

It is almost ironic that the album that is bound to become the soundtrack for the cold and dark days of autumn was released at the hottest time of the year but I, for one, am not going to start complaining about an album as impressive as “The Turn Of The Tides” on that fact alone.

I do appreciate that, as the levels of mercury are reaching the thirties, your mind is already in holiday mode but I do urge you to taking a break from planning your next island excursion and pay attention to this album as it is truly one hell of an offering that thoroughly deserves your kind support!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.5/5.0)

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