This is the second album from one-man Australian black metal act Aquilus.
Bellum I features 62 minutes of atmospheric black metal combined with folk and classical elements. The promo blurb states that Aquilus’ music is for fans of Midnight Odyssey, Skogen, and Falls of Rauros, which immediately caused me to be interested. I’d also add bands like Opeth, Ne Obliviscaris, Agalloch, and Wilderun to this list too.
Bellum I is richly emotive and detailed. It has a luscious quality to it that’s quite remarkable. The songs are highly textured and expressive, making for music that’s a real pleasure to experience. The orchestral darkness that inhabits this album is epic and filled with an infernal grandeur, yet can still sound surprisingly intimate on occasion.
Alongside the standard instruments that you’d expect to find on a black metal album sit a range of others, such as piano, violin, flute, mandola, and many more. Acoustic guitars are also used to good effect, further adding texture to the music’s multifaceted offering. The use of strings and orchestral elements are strikingly well-realised, making most other bands that utilise them sound amateur by comparison, or at least ineffectual. These elements are a fully embedded aspect of the music, rather than cheap additions; Bellum I uses nothing but the highest quality ingredients.
The strength of the music’s composition is notable throughout. Each song has its place on the album and its role to play in the whole, and each individual track is a complete world unto itself. The music is powerful and affecting. The songs sweep you away in a torrent of emotion.
This is black metal with grand ideas, and a guiding mind powerful enough to realise them. The artist behind Aquilus clearly knows how to handle his ambitious vision for the music, and the end result is utterly compelling.
Essential listening for fans of expressive atmospheric black metal.