Despite the obvious handicap of having no vocals, there has been an uptick in the number of instrumental bands in recent times and more often than not, they play a ‘post’ variation of metal. In case of the Belgian four-piece Hemelbestormer, the choice of style lies close to the grimy underbelly of sludge metal. ‘Aether’ is the band’s debut full length and with four long tracks, the record comes off more of an experience, than a traditional record. The music has a strong melodic flavor with a lot of ambient and heavy sludge passages thrown in and at the time of listening to the record, the riffs manage to do a decent job of entertaining the listener. Then again, the problem with not just Hemelbestormer, but most instrumental post metal bands is regarding the memorability, which ‘Aether’ is not exempt from.
This is an album that runs for almost an hour, but is composed of only 4 tracks. In order to pull of such long instrumental songs, the tracks need to be packed to the brim with fresh ideas and moments that the listeners take back with them. In this case, there are a few moments that remain fresh in the memory, but a few moments in an hour long record doesn’t necessarily constitute a stellar album.
The sludgy undercurrents and the melodic leads of ‘After Us the Flood’ initiate the proceedings. The heavy emphasis on the atmosphere does a good job of keeping the listener engrossed in the different layers of the music. The quieter moments are dominated by the drummer’s intricate fills. The structure and flow of the track remains unaltered for most part of it and the sludgy heaviness makes an appearance only towards the tail end of the song. ‘Starless’ has a more melodic approach with spacey arpeggios forming the central riff. This tracks weaves in and out of thick sludge moments. Though the idea starts out fresh, by the time the track ends, it becomes tired and painful.
‘The Purging’ treads on a similar path as its predecessor and the only track that offers something slightly different is the closer ‘On Desolate Plains’. This feels like a doom metal track with it’s funeral dirge like pace and emphasis on a thick sound. The length however, becomes the track’s undoing and the same can be said for ‘Aether’ as an album. There are a lot of interesting ideas and moments that are very memorable. But the fact that each track lumbers on for over 12 minutes, makes these memorable moments mesh together to form an uneventful experience.
Given proper editing and time management, Hemelbestormer’s debut might have fared much better. Most of these tracks could have easily been split into multiple tracks and perhaps that way, the album would have been a little less overwhelming.