Review: Possessed Steel “Aedris” [Temple of Mystery]

Review: Possessed Steel “Aedris” [Temple of Mystery]

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Score 55%
Summary
55 %
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Ontario’s Possessed Steel bring us ye olde fashioned metal with their first full length LP, Aedris, and offer plenty of melody, soaring vocals, and 70s stomping riffs, nicely packaged in solid studio work. Sitting comfortably in well-trodden jogging tempos and licks not venturing too far from the trusty pentatonic scale, tales of swords, kings, and Valkyries are delivered cleanly with black metal vocals making the occasional cameo.

Atmospheric pianos and footsteps approach in an intro that could do a better job of seguing into the second track (losing momentum is a common theme), which starts the album proper with something better suited further down the listing. Keeper of the Woods offers sweet melodies at a steady pace but takes a strange turn near the 5 minute mark with an unusual, off-key plodding towards a brief flirt with black metal, ending before building into something substantial. The forth track does an ever better job of killing momentum by being here instead of as the first track – pensive and brooding acoustic guitars for a minute and a half, but why?

Frost Lich uses the blackened metal vocals and melodic solos to much better use, with a purposeful song structure that leads us to the galloping drums and driving riffs of Assault of the Twilight Keep, which is a much better contender for opening track (at this point one wonders if the track sequencing was done by lucky dip). Again, impetus is short-lived as next up is Free at Last, which puts the brakes on with something Sting might have produced if he was asked to do a cover of Planet Caravan.

Bogs of Agathron is up next – creeping, dark, ambient… and taking 93 seconds to get going. The up-tempo change at 3:16 doesn’t suit their style (or production), and the normally shrewd drumming stands out like a sore thumb, which only gets more awkward at 4:27. This daring double-tempo goes nowhere, however, as the song ends less than a minute later.

The ambitious Skeleton King does its best to involve the bass a lot more, but the EQ means it rattles more than that tin can you clamped around the middle of your snapped exhaust. Alas, it’s not only the mastering but the wavering direction that hampers the song – a sharp, bursting guitar intro and some surging riffs slow to a bog standard, vanilla, 4/4 lumbering before speeding up again. The song slows once more, then picks up, then slows to pensive chords and splish-splash percussion. The pace picks up for an admittedly sweet grand finale, but the song stops and starts enough to wear out an AGM battery. Yet more slow-fast-slow-fast treatment awaits us on the album closer, which means we’ve now sat through the musical equivalent of opening a door for the cat for it to stand undecidedly and let all the heat out… for 14 and a half minutes. Do you want to be in or out?

There’s not much to stop the release from being unremarkable outside flickering palm-muted riffs, rising cleans seasoned with blackened growls, and a skilled bassist we can actually hear (and enjoy). Though satisfying and well made, listening can go from fun to curious as it doesn’t quite know its strength – ambient epic, thrash/folk crossover niche, or old-school trve metal? Answers on a postcard.

Release date: November 30, 2020

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