Almost three years ago, at the very beginning of 2019, Germany's Fading Aeon introduced me to a new combination of metal subgenres—epic melodic death metal—and I thoroughly enjoyed their debut album, A Warrior's Tale. Now they're back with the follow-up, which continues very much in the same vein: five long songs that combine the riffage of heavy metal and the melodies of power metal with a harsh voice and the crunch of death metal. There's nothing new added this time out, but everything is a little more: the songs are longer still and the riffs are more urgent, but there is also even more of the delicate instrumental work in between the heavier sections.
As with the debut, the first two songs are the shorter ones but, for this band, that means a seven minute song and an eight minute song. They ramp up from there, with the other three all passing the ten minute mark and two heading towards fourteen. None of these feel too long though, even if it's not always easy to grasp the full sweep of any of them in one go. We just dive into them and let their flow take us where they will. These are rivers of songs, sometimes calm and intricate and sometimes whitewater rapids, but they always carry us and we end up happy wherever we end up.
The most immediate song is the first one, Beginning of the End, which means that it's the first of them to become an old friend. One time through and this is just good stuff; a second and we start to identify favourite riffs and favourite sections; a third and we're feeling some of it in our bones. In very different hands, Beginning of the End could be an Iron Maiden song, because of how it's all structured, with solid riffs, memorable melodies and galloping sections where both the voice and instruments gallop together.
The tone is completely different, of course, and the vocals are a light year away from the Air Raid Siren, but this track makes me wonder how Fading Aeon would sound cover something off Piece of Mind. If Maiden are fair to highlight as an influence but completely meaningless as a comparison, I'll go back to the band I compared them to on their debut, because I hear it here as well and that is the French band Winds of Sirius, who were much slower than this but much closer in tone, with a similar vocal style.
Christian Stauch has a warm deep rasp that doesn't allow him much flexibility to intonate but he's very good at stretching his notes for effect. He's a texture here more than he is a delivery method for lyrics, even if his diction is often completely intelligible, and that texture owns the deep end so that David Gareis's far higher guitar can have fun playing counter to it. In many ways, it provides a drone for a higher voice to soar over, just like throat singers, who admittedly do both themselves. Here he's the drone and Gareis's guitar is the higher voice.
Tempting Voices coalesces next before then the longer songs, but my favourite soon became track three, Defying the Path Foregone, which is the shorter of the thirteen minute songs. It kicks off in almost alternative rock fashion, with chords that could start a Red Hot Chili Peppers number, but it unexpectedly adds strings—and was that a flute?—before chunking up and firmly staking out in metal territory. It's the stripped down section early on, where they actually sound like a trio for a change, that grabbed me first, but I enjoyed the build too. It gets faster and heavier with a lot of the melodic line handled by whatever the extra layer is behind the band, and the last third is joyous.
Mostly, I'm just as surprised as last time to realise that Fading Aeon are a trio. Stauch takes care of vocals and bass, David Gareis all the guitarwork and Patrick Gareis the drums. However, there's often another layer in addition to these traditional instruments, including right at the beginning of Beginning of the End, which is the beginning of the album. Sometimes it sounds like it's all the work of keyboards, but sometimes it takes more of a choral form, a merging of voices. Someone's doing something extra and it's obvious when they stop doing it, such as the first minute of ...Dust to Dust, the closer, which opens slow and stark and bluesy.
I like this a lot and I like it more each time I listen through it. It starts out an easy 6/10 but with an expectation that it'll grow on further listens. It becomes a 7/10 the second time through and then keeps getting better, as the songs become old friends. I'm very tempted to go with an 8/10 at this point, especially as I gave the debut a 7/10 and think this is better. Another time through ought to firm up that decision. Now, who else is making epic melodic death metal because I want more and I don't want to wait another three years...