Empyrium - _Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays_
(Prophecy Productions, 1999)
by: Pedro Azevedo (
This entirely acoustic release by Empyrium is not a very surprising move for them considering the acoustic components of _Songs of Moors & Misty Fields_ [CoC #30], but I expected something more consistent overall and also better as far as the second half of the album is concerned. Perhaps I expected too much because of the excellence of _SoM&MF_, but still the opening title track was quite promising. Simple acoustic guitars, a flute melody, then a deep male choir in the background with normal Empyrium clean vox on top and some simple percussion towards the end. Very atmospheric and pleasant. The second track, "Dying Brokenhearted", is also quite good; similar to the first, minus the percussion and featuring only some whispered vox, and overall very based upon acoustic guitar work, like most of the album. The next track, "The Shepherd and the Maiden Ghost", features more sombre spoken vocals and some cello, which could have been used much more frequently and effectively, in my opinion. The fourth track, "The Sad Song of the Wind", is indeed a sad song, again based on acoustic guitar and sombre vocals, plus some more flute. The spoken vocals work quite well, whereas the results achieved by the chants vary considerably. From this point onward, however, things are never again as interesting as before. The acoustic guitar starts to become somewhat repetitive and nothing very interesting is added, culminating in the rather strange eighth track of this 32 minute long release, "Many Moons Ago..." -- a very medieval/folk-sounding song that seems rather out of place here. The atmosphere created by the first few tracks is partially lost by now and _WaNtWGP_ ends with a new version of "When Shadows Grow Longer", originally from their previous album, with a lot of chanting and an acoustic guitar background; nothing very remarkable when compared to the original. Though not excessively similar, _WaNtWGP_ isn't far from some of what Ulver did with their own acoustic album. Ulver's _Kveldssanger_, however, is overall superior, thanks mainly to the fact that the album doesn't start to rapidly lose interest or atmosphere after its midpoint, as is the case with Empyrium's. Overall, I expected something sadder and more sorrowful (the first four tracks do get quite close to that) and also more stirring -- in the end, those were the main elements that Empyrium achieved to make _SoM&MF_ so great, and I expected the band to somehow re-create them in a different way with acoustic instrumentation better than they did in the second half of the album. Still, the first half, though not entirely as brilliant as I expected, is nevertheless very good and the second isn't anything terrible at all, just average; it's just that, coming from Empyrium, I feel that _WaNtWGP_ could have been better.
(article published 8/12/1999)
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