Written by: AP on 23/09/2013 22:39:29

Europe has, in recent years, become a hotbed for post-rock and -metal, and in the process it has cultivated a niche within those styles that sounds unmistakably our own. In contrast with the U.S. based practitioners of the genre, whose style is often influenced by sludge and stoner, and with the Scandinavian contingent of similar acts, who seek to capture the darkness and desolation of Nordic nature; the mainland scene has tended to adopt a more uplifting, theatrical approach. As such, it is noteworthy that Marburg, Germany based Amber's debut album "Lovesaken" is so dejecting, combining all the sorrow and regret of the wave movement in hardcore with an explorative post-metal sound that is grandiose, but never positive. "Lovesaken" sounds much like Rinoa - but more menacing.

Its atmosphere enables me to excuse the delay in getting this review written by the fact that such music is not tempting to listen to during a summer as bright and warm as this year's; rather, it provides a more appropriate backdrop to the savage rain, howling wind and rank smell of rotten leaves that have begun to exact their wrath on us with the arrival of autumn. Now, that might sound like a poor excuse veiled in a metaphor, but as the opening track "Kings Like Us" begins to unfold, it does so with all the likeness of an approaching gust front, vocalist Julian's shrill screams whipping at the listener like the first raindrops of an imminent storm. Slowly, with growing tension, the song unravels its enormity, until guitarists Christian and Dennis shift into higher gear with a nice stop/start transition at the 01:30 mark, and lead the track into a characteristic "bam-badam-bam-badam" gallop, and here, if you are still following the metaphor, the true savagery of the hurricane is unleashed; howling tremolo melodies personifying the wind, and the frantic rhythms bringing to life the maelstrom of spraying water, swirling leaves and shattered roof tiles. That "Kings Like Us" has the capacity to evoke such imagery is statutory to post-rock and -metal code, and - to me at least - the mark of a truly fantastic exemplar of the genre.

The song delivers a strong beginning to "Lovesaken"; so strong in fact, that the remaining four creations have difficulty in matching its brilliance, though only slightly. Following a lull of desolate clean notes hovering atop Julian's continuing anguish, "Lost" unrolls another ambitious deluge of delicate, layered melodies interspersed with surges of bar chord, and despairing wails that sound much akin to Chlo from the similar Vales. There's even a touch of the late Carrier in the trudging outro's resort to wah-wah backed bent notes, which is a neat inclusion given the misery of that band's swan song "Blind to What is Right" and the darkness that descends cue "Silent Lies", the most disconsolate song on an album that doesn't exactly offer respite elsewhere, either. Indeed, "Lovesaken" is as suffocating as they come, in the emotional sense; its bleak outlook enough to sour even the brightest day, and to cast a shadow of absolute pessimism upon one's musings. Yes, this is the soundtrack to rock bottom.

One wonders what sorrow the five members that comprise the band must have undergone to conjure such destitution from their minds, and is shocked to find them sporting wide grins in the promotional photo on Facebook. But then, music must be their catharsis, and it does not take a genius to decipher what a song called "Fading Away" might be about. Still, consider the lyrics: "They taught you wrong / There's no peace, no mercy, no grace / There's no beauty in death, there's no tunnel of light / It will hurt and you will be gone." Proper kill-yourself stuff - and instrumentally it sounds just as funereal. Somewhat against expectation, the title track concludes the effort in a rather uplifting tone, with a glimmer of hope to be detected in its lyrics, too; like some victory achieved through rebirth, as highlighted by Julian's words of "We have walked on stony roads, have stumbled, strived and fought / Have won and lost, gone astray, died and risen / And been drowning in this hell of a love". Such reprieve is a welcome manifestation following the preceding torture, but still you should not expect to see sunshine and kittens through this one, either.

It has been a good year for post-rock and -metal, and with "Lovesaken", Amber join the ranks of those that have succeeded. Punishing and forlorn though it may be, musically the album nears the grandeur of Rinoa's first and last album "An Age Among Them", one of my favorite albums of all time in this genre. Amber are a discovery, and it warms my heart to be able to share it with you.

Download: Kings Like Us, Lost, Silent Lies, Lovesaken
For the fans of: Light Bearer, Rinoa, Vales
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.05.2013
Halo of Flies / NarShadaa

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