Greetings, Abyss! Prepare yourselves: Multiple nerdy (and dated) video game references ahead. I've long believed that heavy metal and video games were natural allies in the war against boredom and the tyranny or normalcy. Go back to the soundtracks from both the 8 and 16 bit era and you'll hear compositions that would work just as well on an EVH Frankenstein as they do on a Casio. Sega lead the way for me back in the day with incredible soundtracks on games like Space Harrier, After Burner, Phantasy Star and Shinobi III; all worth listening to just for enjoyment's sake, actually. Beyond the music, video games, and in particular Role Playing Games, could provide a prolonged escape from reality not all that dissimilar to what a Maiden or Metallica record could. No matter how rotten your day was at school there was always another dungeon to explore, character to level-up, or riff you wanted to try to teach yourself. Though we long-ago established the fact that I have no musical ability, I've yet to be stumped by a dungeon. So the marriage of metal and video games, while not new, feels perfectly natural to me. Chico, California's Aerith 100% agree with me on this point; and to prove it they released their self-titled debut this year, available for purchase over on their Bandcamp page. Drawing thematic inspiration from (arguably) the most beloved video game character of all-time (Aerith from Final Fantasy VII), the band have crafted a Melodic death metal album that transcends the confines of that overly-simple classification. It is a beautifully furious recording, plain and simple. 'Beyond Terminus' is a four and a half minute clinic on how to pace a dynamic metal song. Blast beats and screams/growls in the verses yield to an aching and an all-together lovely vocal from Melissa Rosenburg in the chorus. Had the flower girl ever sang for Cloud, it would have sounded like this. The riffs and synths have an ebb and flow to them that are harmonious and never feel as though they're competing with one-another. That sense of sonic balance carries throughout the record and it's something I wish other bands from the genre could better embrace.
Other stand-outs include 'Fractured Soul' which, thanks to the juxtaposition of simple, atmospheric synths and acoustic arpeggios, is evocative of the Gothenburg sound (in the best possible way). 'The Uprising' features a growled chorus that follows the rhythm guitars and will leave you in slow head nod bliss. Need an ear worm? That chorus will be with you long after the song is over. That Aerith's debut feels like a record made by seasoned extreme metal veterans should come as no surprise, actually. Ken Bedine, of death metal icons Aborted, is pounding skin and cymbal on this EP. The incorporation of a top-tier time keeper, coupled with superb (I mean SUPERB) production work by Chris Themelco and you've got an EP that demands a follow-up. Considering Final Fantasy VII was originally released on 3 discs, I recommend a triple LP. I'm not asking too much. Until then, sharpen your Buster sword, cast Mimic on Knights of the Round, and content your greedy little metal ears on 6 melodic death metal gems from Aerith. You just read all of this, it's not like you have anything better to do. Rage on! JPR