I have heard the name Empyrium for several years now, but never seemed to find the time to hear this band. That happens sometimes. With the upcoming release of their new album, and specifically through their most recent music video, I decided to hear Empyrium for the first time, and I’m certainly glad I did. The album is called “Über den Sternen” (Above the Stars) and it releases on February 26th through Prophecy Productions.
Empyrium have been around for some time, since 1994. They hail from Germany. The band is a duo made up of Markus Stock on acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, screams, drums, bass, keyboard, and dulcimer; and Thomas Helm on vocals, keyboard, and acoustic guitars. You will also hear guest musicians, those being Nadine Stock on flute, Aline Deinert on violin and viola, and Robina Huy on cello.
The band has an exquisite, pastoral, and deliciously green sound to their dark folk and doom metal stylings. While they are definitely metal to some degree, they are rather reserved, taking inspiring from Romantic pining about nature, local myths, and beauty. You will hear lots of Franciscan vocal harmonies alongside some warm harsh vocals, both of which I have come to love on this record. So, the folk aspects of their sound are nicely balanced with doom, neo-classical, idyllic, and fantastical ideas.
One of the things I like about their gentle and enlightened sound is the atmosphere of mystery, mysticism, and levity that comes with it. Their music often pours out like whispered poetry in motion, with every bit of misty sublimity that you would expect. Truly, between the evocative strings, excellently performed acoustic guitars, climactic metal segments, and beauteous melodies, the band does their Romantic ancestors proud, displaying a love for nature, for splendor, for home.
“Über den Sternen” is a detailed and subtle album, one that will take multiple listens to hear and experience every shard of light, every wisp of fog. It begins with their newest single, “The Three Flames Sapphire”, a song and video that is instantly bewitching, being full of haunting, hovering beauty and tender performances. I love the low and understated metal elements, along with the driving percussion, that yield themselves to the gorgeous flutes, and yet the lumbering climax near the end is probably my favorite moment of all. This song is a perfect introduction to the album, setting the stage for the sunlit melodies and nighttime tranquility that is to follow.
The album has eight tracks, and I love them all. One of my favorites is called “A Lucid Tower Beckons on the Hills Afar”. This is the second song on the record, and it has a deep and restrained brutality to its sound. You will hear vicious harsh vox that still feel like butter, and the second half of the track is a delicate trance of foggy emotions, intrepid dulcimer, and beautiful strings. The third track on the album comes along, and it is yet another favorite, meaning that the opening trio of songs is incredibly strong and difficult to ignore. “The Oaken Throne” was an instant attraction for me with its shoegaze, slow-paced style and reliance on effervescent melody. What a beauty!
The entire album continues this way, though. I love “Moonrise” for its darkened acoustic serenity, “The Archer” for its elegant structure and beautiful flute near the end, “The Wild Swans” for its rich climax and sense of awe, and “In the Morning Mist” for its guarded witness to glory and grandeur. The title track ends the album, and is the longest song at just over 10 minutes. It might be my favorite overall, though, with its climbing rhythms soon joined by gorgeous keys, its mighty second half, and its sense of subtle scale and poignant memory. It truly feels like floating towards the stars and beyond.
Empyrium is a band that I need to explore now that I have discovered their wonderful sound. “Über den Sternen” has turned out to be such a rich, abstract, and pregnant experience, one that feels otherworldly while celebrating the haunting beauty of our own. In that way, this record feels like a sacred séance meant to draw forth the ghostly and hidden enigmas of this place we call home, calling to ourselves the spectral wonder that can only be seen with eyes of love and connection. It makes me want to be more connected to this world and to the people and sacred spaces that are everywhere around us.
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