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Maestus : Voir Dire

A very well-written debut from Maestus, putting as much emphasis on atmosphere as on raw and extreme edges.

Maestus is a fresh new band from the US. Main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Parker seems to be a pretty busy man, playing in multiple black and death metal bands, as well as running his own recording studio. While his other projects seem to consist of more straightforward extreme metal, Maestus is a bit more ambiguous, diverse, and downbeat. Though their first EP 'Scarlet Lakes' seems to be drifting about in obscurity for now, I could see this first full-length 'Voir Dire' bringing the band out of the shadows a bit and attracting a more attention.

Although it's a slow-burner, the music on 'Voir Dire' is very versatile, multi-faceted, and even epic at times. Ultimately, what we have here is an incredibly atmospheric style of black/doom, filled with eerie ambient sections of clean guitars, pianos, synthesizers, and nice clean singing. In the more dire moments of the ensemble, brooding downbeat riffs pound down with a grizzly and sludgy guitar tone. These drudging paces of doom tend to build up to intense climaxes of blastbeats, which soar with majestic melodies and complex drumming patterns. The vocals mostly alternate between low grunts and blistering shrieks, though some soothing tenor harmonies bleed into the mix at times, providing a tasteful choral touch at times. Some haunting female wails also appear on 21-minute opener 'Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak' alongside the vicious screams and bleak riffs, much like something that you would hear from Shape of Despair. In a way, the slower and calmer moments of the album remind me of the gloomy Finnish ensemble, as the hypnotic and dreamy feel of the album almost seems akin to 'Shades of…' Yet then, raw blackened passages sporadically appear, reminding the listener that this is an entirely different monster.

As I mentioned before, there is heavy use of keyboards and ambient influences. These mostly consist of celestial sounding choral pads and pseudo-orchestras, which swell and glide alongside the guitars quietly. Piano solos appear here and there, adding an extra sense of sophistication to the mournful and mysterious compositions. Feedback screeches over these calming interludes to prepare the listener for the storm of harrowing distortion to come. A good example of this transition between the calm and the extreme exists between tracks 'Tears of Sky' and 'Algid Lungs'. The former is an ominous interlude track of quiet, repetitive synths. As the mood grows darker and the music is about to fade out, the latter kicks off suddenly with an aggressive outburst of pure black metal, before settling down into a gloomier mid-tempo kick with clean singing. The songs are all structured like this to an extent, progressing between dreary, quiet, aggressive, and extreme. It flows together smoothly like lava, making the entire album feel like one full composition as opposed to a collection of different songs.

As a whole, the epic and intricate structure of these tracks is truly what makes the album stand out to me. It's like the musical equivalent of being in the middle of the forest at night as a natural disaster is about to occur. It's chilling, powerful, and threatening, and the odd moments of quietude will only make you wonder what is soon to come. Overall, it's a very well-written and interesting album that puts as much emphasis on atmosphere as it does on its raw and extreme edge; a very worthy recommendation for fans of Agalloch, Evoken, and Ahab.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak
2. Weeping Granite
3. Tears of Sky
4. Algid Lungs
5. Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness - Part I: Overcast Fields Ridden with Dew
6. Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness - Part II: Specie Æternitas
7. Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness - Part III: Water Sifting Through Iceladen Veins
8. Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness - Part IV: Per Æternitas

Duration : Approx. 74 minutes

Visit the Maestus bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-03-01 by Dante DuVall
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