Amber Asylum has been a force in the post-rock/post-metal domain, since the mid '90s. With their origin found back in 1996 with the release of Frozen In Amber, this intriguing band was able to keep a presence, unfortunately not as constant as we would prefer. The seven year drought leading to the release of 2007's Still Point was the first instance of a prolonged break from the band, but since then they appear invigorated, bringing another excellent album in Bitter River before laying low for a while (even though they released a live album, Live In Wroclaw.) So, Sin Eater comes six years after their last full-length, and also marks the first release of the band through Prophecy Productions.
The elements that forge the sound of Amber Asylum are quite diverse. Sure, we have seen post-rock and doom or sludge merge quite nicely, but the case with these guys that aspect is quite different. Firstly, it is the instrumentations that throw you off, since the band makes use of a classical instrumentation, with stunning string arrangements crafting a darker, mesmerizing sound. From the very intro of “Perfect Calm” that aspect flourishes, while the one-dimensional approach in terms of the tempo allows them to take their time in terms of progression, allowing for this chamber doom aspect to unfold.
That is probably the most accurate description I have seen in a while. Calling Amber Asylum's music chamber doom just feels right. The doom tone is heavily rooted within the core of the band, ranging from ethereal leanings to gloomy vibes. Especially when the vocal lines and drums are introduced in the music, the final picture just clicks and makes perfect sense. Another quality of doom that this band's possess is the sorrowful lead tones that creep in the tracks, with “Beast Star” and “Paean” filled with such parts. And the fact that those leads are actually coming from a string section is even more impressive and drenches the tone even more in the mournful congregation of Amber Asylum. It is simply a case of projecting the power of doom to a different domain, and that is what this band does so well, managing to unleash the heaviness and melancholy of doom without the need for distorted guitars, a point clearly made in the final part of “Perfect Calm.” The cover of Candlemass' “TOT,” one of the lesser known track of the legendary doom band (founded in the From The 13th Sun album,) fits perfectly with the sound of Amber Asylum, since it encompasses the heavy melody of the doom genre in its structure.
However, there is a certain progression with Sin Eater, and even though the first five songs might convince you that this is all there is in Amber Asylum's music, there is something more twisted lurking. Some adjustments are found along the way: the minimal approach of “Harvester,” especially the intro, and the ritualistic, verging on militaristic, unfolding of “Paean” are preparing you for what the two final tracks of the album hold.
Taking on a more experimental outlook, Amber Asylum allow themselves to indulge in dissonance and sonic alchemy with “Executioner.” The saturated guitars kick off this spacious, solitary opus through the darkened mindset of its composers, with noise aspects coming in and the construction of soundscapes becoming surreal as synths are added to the towering track. The doom quality is still there, but it has been mutated, twisted beyond recognition. The title track takes over, seeing the band dwelling even deeper in this experimental territory, with a great arrangement of the strings in terms of the panorama of the track. The vibe is more aggressive, with a more direct tone revealing a hint of malice, as the abrupt pitch shifting turns to an even more relentless and constant sonic effect and merges with the background rhythmic patterns to make a constant, ever-changing force.
Sin Eater appears to contain two different identities. On one hand, there is the chamber doom self, taking the elements of doom and post-rock, channeling them through the classical leanings of Amber Asylum. However, it is the second aspect, the experimental self of Amber Asylum that takes this album to another level.
7.7 / 10
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