Amestigon have a lot to live up to. Not just in terms of black metal as a whole, but in terms of their own history and mystique. Founded in 1993, the band has existed in an almost coma-like state, repeatedly rising from the grave to kick some ass after members had separated to pursue other projects before vanishing again with no signs of another reunion. Fortunately, all this time apart exploring different styles and sounds has allowed Amestigon to keep growing in this half-dead state and the sound the band creates reunited on new album Thier (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled) is rich and diverse.
Alternating between drifting introspective soundscapes and the cold fury of black metal shrieking, Thier is an atmospheric epic. Best absorbed as a whole (preferably somewhere quiet) but with each song feeling complete of itself, the album is composed of four lengthy tracks and about a million different moods, most of them close neighbors of melancholy and anger. It’s a powerful album, demanding attention, moody passages and guitar-heavy black metal united in their ability to hypnotise the listener into a musical trance, almost floating through the album. It may sound hyperbolic, but there is something special at work here. Amestigon use a firm but sure musical hand to guide the listener along the journey, and for met at least, listening to the sprawling work felt like letting go rather than a feat of focus.
The ambition here is almost symphonic in scope. It is as though the band came back together with years of unused ideas they had been saving in their Amestigon box and rather than rationing them, deployed them all at once in a grandiose collection of sounds that can inspire both headbanging and quiet wonder. Unlike many of their atmospheric black metal contemporaries, Amestigon are unafraid of the riff, and well able to integrate slamming yet intricate guitar parts into the album without pandering to the audience. It’s impressive how natural they make booming almost stoner-style riffs fit in next to gentler atmospherics, and transitions don’t feel like they’re calling attention to themselves: switches in mood feel like the next place the musical stream needed to flow rather than some gaudy device and the musicianship involved in the integration of the whole is something to behold. Similarly, the music never seeks to jar the listener with odd choices or confusing time signatures: everything is relatively simple to absorb, never seeking to wake the listener from the dream-state invoked by the vocal harmonies and screaming guitars.
It all adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts and I highly recommend listening to the album as one uninterrupted epic. If you’re short on time, the video for 358 is embedded below to give you a taste of the experience, and you can find the whole album on Amestigon’s bandcamp page. Either way, turn off the lights, close your eyes and let Amestigon lead you through their world for a while. It’s quite a trip.