When I first heard of the then upcoming split between Amiensus and Oak Pantheon I was more than a bit excited. Needless to say I preordered the album right away, even forgoing the chance to listen to the album digitally so I could get the full experience from a proper speaker. It’s all too easy to be disappointed, especially with expectations as high as mine were. I’m immensely pleased to report that my expectations were met and even surpassed.
As much as I loved Amiensus’s debut album, Restoration, it suffered slightly from the transitions from blacker sections to softer, Agallochy, folk influenced ones. They seem to have rectified this on their half of the split, a single song titled “Arise”. For those unfamiliar with Amiensus’s sound, they combine a number of elements to form beautiful walls of metal interspersed with acoustic and folk passages. Acoustic guitar, melodic lead guitar, heavier rhythm guitar, synths, harsh vocals, clean vocals, bass, and drums are all used, and occasionally all at the same time. This may sound eclectic and like it wouldn’t work, but in reality, everything comes together perfectly and creates moments of pure beauty. “Arise” is quiet like the material on Restoration, but perhaps better written and more mature. As I said previously, on their debut album there were moments where the transitions from metal to folk weren’t done very well. “Arise” has none of those moments, and transitions from metal to folk perfectly and integrates both seamlessly. It’s a fantastic song and likely the band’s best at this point.
As “Arise” fades out and the rush turns to a lead guitar over bass, we come to the Oak Pantheon half of the split, “A Gathering”. Oak Pantheon began as a very Agalloch influenced band with their EP, The Void, but began to find a more unique sound with their debut full-length, From a Whisper, as they incorporated more black metal and post-metal into their sound. “A Gathering” contains no folk, a healthy amount of post-metal, and just a bit of black metal. It’s very lead guitar focused and the riffs are more post-metal than black metal, and if it weren’t for the vocals, I’d be hesitant to call it black metal at all; only the end of the song sounds wholly black metal with its tremolo riffs and blast beats. In spite of Sati’s deranged breathy shrieks, the purer black metal section sounds very uplifting and joyous, and is very fitting with respect to the rest of the songs. And yet again, the band's best song to date.
This split will hardly appeal to metal purists, mostly because of the Amiensus part of the split, but that’s certainly not the goal of either Amiensus or Oak Pantheon, given this split and their previous works. For more open-minded listeners, however, Gathering is likely to become a late year favorite. The harmonious chaos and beauty of “Arise” and the pure infectiousness of “A Gathering” are sure to please, and they leave the listener wanting more from both bands. For now though, we’ll have to be content with leaving this on repeat.