ApneaApnea-pauses in breathing often during sleep . A disturbing sight for a partner or parent. Choking, the affected person gasps for air, drowning in their own bed.With these facts in mind I had expected something disturbing and truncated to lie within Ethereal Solitude. The title, however gives more away than the band name.

Apnea are a three piece from Auckland founded in 2011 by Drew Reid and within this album they have spread a blend of black metal, shoe gaze and “post “ rock  which they use to interweave tales of nature and pagan fantasy.  One glance at the lyric sheet and this popped out as if it were 3D at the Imax. “We shall spit a thousand arrows from our jewel encrusted lips washed away with the turmoil…”  Delicious!  The lyrical message is as important to Reid as the multi layered music it lies atop. The vocals are delivered in a tortured black metal rasp but with enough clarity to convey that message.

The music does not disappoint. Opener “Trees” oozes rather than thunders in. It really does evoke the image of roots pushing down into the earth as green shoots burst upwards – shit this is getting me all poetic and hipster – better stop for a beard stroke and a vape! Then at 4 minutes part two of the track kicks in and the natural order is ripped by blast beats and galloping riffs, the black metal slicing through the forest canopy. The song slows to a repetitive, hypnotising rhythm bringing the track full circle before follow up “Hearts Sea” explodes in my ears.

Apnea offer multi layered metal , in parts reminiscent of Winterfylleth and Nine Covens – rounded edges and bleak riffs. Added to this is the post rock and shoe gaze elements offering sweeping swathes of pastel shades into the darkness. Hearts Sea gives way to Blackest Oceans which leads to Celestine Tides.  A triumvirate of nautical themed pieces is not too surprising form a band based on an island at the bottom of the world.  Celestine Tides at 8 mins seven seconds is the last of the three but is also the centrepiece for the album. The sea here is moved to space for traverse amongst the stars. The spoken passage within it, given straight faced, Kiwi accented and without gruff growl or special effect “pops” from the soundscape. The bass on this track is reminiscent of Simon Gallup’s playing on The Cure’s Faith album. The song ends with a clean sung chorus as the listener is left floating, devoid of oxygen to become a satellite of flesh and bone.  As you can read, the music on offer here opens up my creative juices. It is music to “let go “to. There are no headbanging anthems or fist pumping ragers.

Fields At Fall opens with a searing guitar line that banishes any thoughts of space death and plants both feet back on the green and brown stuff. Tales of survival in the woods despite mankind’s destructive forces are told to a soundtrack of sweeping epic extreme metal.

Ehereal Solitude is brought to a close with “Warm”. Has there ever been a track as aptly named? This is sound written as touch. I can feel sunshine on my skin as I listen and the repeated refrain “Over again” is almost mantra like.

Apnea have produced a thought provoking album containing many textures and layers that should transcend the labels that I opened my review with. The six tracks are connected enough to create an overall picture but varied enough to avoid ambivalence. They have taken the best bits from various shades of music and weaved an aural tapestry that floats my boat baby! I look forward to more of the same from these blokes.

(8/10 Matt Mason)