Aether Realm – Redneck Vikings From Hell
Record Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: May 1, 2020
Diverse. That is the one word I would use to describe the album Redneck Vikings From Hell from Aether Realm. Well, I guess I have many more words, or this review would be finished. Easiest review ever! That would be doing this album a huge disservice, because it is incredible and deserves the long-winded review. When you mix symphonic music with Brazilian style guitars, banjo, and dark and ominous tones on top of death metal, you get a complex mixture of innovative music. Add in Gloryhammer drummer Ben Turk as the orchestrator, Kile Odell (Motionless in White) mixing and producing it, and Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist) mastering it, you get a damn fine album indeed. Why not throw in some guest musicians; Wayne Ingram (Wilderun), Greg Burgess (Allegaeon), Erik W. Brown (Nekrogoblikon), and YouTube phenom Josh Reike among numerous other talents, to jazz up the album even more? Have I convinced you yet?
Aether Realm hails out of North Carolina with members; Vincent (Jake) Jones (bass, vocals), Heinrich Arnold (guitar, vocals), Tyler Gresham (drums), and Donny Burbage (guitar). Jones and Arnold have been playing music together since ages 15 and 16. In 2013, they released their debut album, One Chosen by the Gods, and in 2017 their sophomore effort, Tarot, which are both primarily melodic death metal. Redneck Vikings From Hell is their third album and is an evolution of unique musical elements.
Let’s dive in. Aether Realm‘s “Redneck Vikings From Hell” begins with a Viking metal vibe. There are banjos, metal riffs, raspy piratey vocals, with a symphonic background. Lyrics represent a tall-tale feel and the guitar solos are riveting. It is a very enjoyable title track that continues to grow on me every time I listen.
“Goodbye” has a completely different feel. It is extremely catchy and the vocals take a bit of a turn, but it is still captivating. This one gets stuck in my head often since I have started listening. The harmonizing is gratifying and once again, the guitar solo. These musicians are colossal.
“Lean into the Wind” begins symphonically with the sound of winds. I felt like I was going to be blown away (pun intended) when the vocals hit, as they do with such force. The thrashy guitars and impressive drumming makes this song one you can’t help but bang your head to. I talk about the guitars often because that is where my ear is naturally drawn, but on this track in particular, Gresham is absolutely prodigious with his drum skills and that overtook my guitar-centric leanings.
“Hunger” sounds like a video game, and I love it. It is fierce, enthralling, and heavy. Due to the nature of the music, I went on a four-and-a-half minute Dungeons and Dragons campaign quest. During this quest, I stopped and had ales and, well, pie as the chorus hit. “Hunger, I’ve been dying for my piece of the pie”. Clearly not what he means, but hey, I was on a quest. I might have to add this to my music list for D&D. Brilliant musicianship. Every damn instrument.
I was not sure about “Guardian” at first, I must admit. It is completely different than the others. My initial thoughts was swayed with repeated listens. This is a beautiful song, all the way through. The lyrics damn near bring me to tears. It is a song of hope, friendship, lending a healing hand, humanity. “When sorrow overtakes you, you can call on me”. Definitely the ballad of the album, but exceptional in every sense of the word. Take time with this one, it will hit your soul.
“One Hollow Word” heavy, heavy heavy. Remembrance and hope, this one hit me hard too. Not to be morbid, but this is almost a must at Viking funerals. I know my Viking loving departed friend would have cranked this tune to eleven and pumped his fists all through. Halfway through it slows down and bears more soul. Look up these lyrics, they are fantastic. “A soul in moments from flesh unbound the hand of chaos from high reached down another relic from life it stole the hand of chaos exacts its toll”. Acoustic notes soar out to finish the song. Amazing.
“She’s Back” features guest Erik W. Brown sits perfect in my musical ears. As a fan of Nekrogoblikon as well, this was a fun surprise. It is just what you would expect from a collaboration between these two bands. Musically magnificent. Vocally entertaining.
“Slave to the Riff” is the first song I had heard on this record and I was instantly drawn to it. It is compositionally glorious. I cannot speak highly enough of this track. It is so interesting and unique. It delivers heavy and swift changes around every corner. At three minutes in when it breaks to the harmonizing vocals, I literally closed my eyes. The abrupt change back to the riffs had me headbanging the rest of the way through.
My favorite song may be “Cycle”. It is a sad song, but also alluring, haunting, and soul bending. “There’s a beast inside, I keep it locked up far away but it always escapes and repays”. The screams by guest vocalist Mike Rumple (Ashen Idol, Flood District) are masterful.
“TMHC” has some insane riffage. The vocals are fast and gritty. What would you expect from a song about brawls? Once again, those damn guitar solos. This band is so stacked with musical genius, it is difficult to even begin to pick it all apart and speak of every instrument.
The album comes to an end with “Craft and the Creator” which is elegant, soulful, and enticing. I am a big fan of instrumental music, especially when it is guitar driven, intelligent, and diverse. Eleven minutes of ostentatious musical dynamism. Did I mention those drums? Otherworldly and stunning. Galloping riffs, drop downs, catchy melodies, melodic orchestration and celestial background vocals. What a finish.
Aether Realm has knocked it out of the park with this album. Redneck Vikings From Hell is one hell of a ride on a unique musical rollercoaster. Don’t be surprised if you see it on my top ten of 2020 later this year. It is refreshing, enjoyable, fun, and powerful. Musically it is next level, vocally exciting, lyrically enlightening. This will be on my revolving playlist. There is something on here for everyone, so make sure you listen all the way through. Also, make sure you support you favorite artists during these strange times to make sure we keep the music going. WE NEED MUSIC, so let’s support these guys by buying their music, merch, anything they are throwing out.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming interview with Aether Realm.
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