I only became aware of French band Aphanemer after seeing them live at Warhorns Festival in 2018. Live they really impressed me; a young, energetic and wonderfully musically adept band who looked great on stage and used it well. After buying their debut album Momento Mori and being pretty much converted I jumped at the chance to review their Dan Swano mixed sophomore album.
Aephanemer play… Well, really depending on your point of view either hugely melodic death metal with symphonic overtones, or symphonic metal with death vocals. Either works and they really have a fine chance of impressing fans of either camp.
The title track opens with a little duel guitar melody before the great thumping symphonic keyboards (done live at Warhorns) charge in on a great riff. It really goes for it with a bright starfire production and some lovey guitar hooks from lead Martin Hamiche. And before you can even half think this is too slick the riff bites and the superb death vocals from Marion Bascoul growl and gnaw at you. It is a glorious start, full of life and dexterity and song writing chops. ‘The Sovereign’ hits next in a roar and a gallop. It’s the kind of song that live gets the hair flinging and the crowd bouncing; Nightwish meets Chthonic with a folky and anthemic feel. Again I cannot tell you how good the vocals are – they are varied, huge and provide the essential grit and grip to the superb melodic sound.
Now, seriously, melodeath is not usually my thing. It fades away with plays for me. However I do like a bit of Tarja period Nightwish and even the odd power metal album and, having had this album for well over a month the one thing I can certainly say is it has huge charisma and therefore staying power. It never oversteps the line into teflon coated slickness. The drums of Mickael Bonnevialle boom and the bass of Lucie Woaye Hune dances in and out and power the band with a huge engine and with the superb leads and those commanding vocals this is kind of like watching Michelle Yeoh in a martial arts film; grace, lightness and a huge kick.
‘Snowblind’ dips into a slightly lower tempo, with a little nod towards very, very early Within Temptation (you know, when they had death vocals. No, they did) and Kalmah. We also get some clean vocals here; Marion possessing a deep, resonant and thankfully non-operatic voice that works well switching in and out of the death snarl.
By this point another thing that becomes apparent is how much Aephanemer pack into a five minute song. The guitar work and keyboards are incredible arrangements on the whole, never losing sight of the songs as a whole but like a fine tapestry making the tiny, delicate threads work for the whole. Their debut album had instrumental versions of all the songs almost to prove the point that these are incredibly well constructed pieces of music, not short of virtuosity but completely absent of self indulgence. But, hey, you wouldn’t want to miss these vocals either.
‘Bloodline’ rises towards a great, gnarly sound with swathes of keyboards kind of like a whirlwind wrapped around a wolverine. Closing track ‘If I Should Die’ should be on the soundtrack to some great dark ages set film, the final charge into battle, the last bloodthirsty hurrah! Magnificent.
I spend a great deal of my time listening to horrible raucous black metal and noise so anything this melodic that drags me out into the light has to be something special and Prokopton is. Epic, cinematic, catchy and melody driven it has anchors in the dirt and grit that really power the beast and stop it from floating away. Seriously only two albums in and you will hear very little melodic death metal better than this. Ridiculously talented, hugely energetic, enthusiastic and great live too.
Aephanemer. Just majestic.