On winter solstice of 2016, Gall and Exile formed the band Aethyrick. The Finnish duo has turned out to be a prolific songwriting entity, quickly releasing a couple of demos in 2017 followed by the full-length ‘Praxis’ in 2018, the sophomore album ‘Gnosis’ in 2020 and the third album ‘Apotheosis’ in 2021. Each of these albums have been released by the acclaimed Finnish label The Sinister Flame. Despite this high productivity and the reach of their record label, a review on these pages is still missing. And to be perfectly honest, yours truly was aware of the existence and releases of the band but this has thus far never led to giving their music a thorough listen. Making amends for this, VM hereby presents the review of Aethyrick’s fourth full-length album, the 2022 released ‘Pilgrimage’.
After spending extended time with the latest full album of the band, it’s safe to say that it’s been a rather large error in judgement not to have paid attention to them sooner. On ‘Pilgrimage’, and their prior releases for that matter, Aethyrick plays highly skilled Melodic Black Metal. This feeling for melody is not so much like their Swedish neighbors, but rather more in the vein of some of the Finnish exponents of the style. Think of Cosmic Church, Thy Serpent and Alghazanth with less emphasis on the keyboards. Aethyrick uses those more sporadically to enhance the heavy sense of melancholy in tracks like ‘Threefold Resurrection’ or ‘Winds of the Wanderer’. Otherwise, the melancholy mostly emanates from the downright beautiful guitar riffs that are omnipresent throughout the eight tracks on the album. But while a lot of melody might go at the cost of the raw Black Metal base, this is far from the case on ‘Pilgrimage’. The guitar sound is raw, the drums propel the songs forward in a creative and ever dynamic manner, and in particular the vocals add an extra layer of rawness. These hoarse screams provide a perfect complement to the frail and enchanting melodies, together making a product that’s both harsh and downright beautiful.
In contrast to for instance Cosmic Church, the music on ‘Pilgrimage’ is more concise and a little bit less atmospheric. The ever-changing rhythmic landscape give the songs a slightly less hypnotizing effect but that is by no means a discredit to the band. To me, it’s more a sign that Aethyrick has crafted themselves a place of their own in Finnish Black Metal, taking a familiar sound but through high level songwriting create a little niche of their own. The absolute highlight of the album, and the prime example of the Aethyrick sound, is presented in ‘A Brother to the Stars’, a song that perfectly combines a raw and ferocious side with melody and melancholy.
As someone that appreciates the Finnish Black Metal scene in all its glory, it was a bit of a mistake to not pay attention to Aethyrick sooner. ‘Pilgrimage’ is another wonderful example of how Black Metal can still sound melodic without losing any of its intensity or rawness. A splendid album, and a band I certainly won’t overlook anymore in the future.