Sophomore albums tend to scare me. I'm always afraid that a band or artist will, at best, be able to match the level of the first release, but rarely do many of them surpass it. I'm happy to say that Amethystium's second album, Aphelion, has improved upon what was already working well on the first CD. For those of you unfamiliar with Amethystium (which is essentially Oystein Ramfjord), think of Enigma, Deep Forest, Delirium and the like.
To describe the music in another way, I'll quote the promotional material. "Amethystium pairs ancient sounds with futuristic grooves and blends them into a meditational and fresh escape from the everyday." I noted in my review of Odonata that I did not find Amethystium to be breaking new ground, per se. However, I do feel that these CDs are just as good as the one's put out by the big-name bands above.
"Shadow to Light" is a great way to kick off Aphelion. The beat starts mellow with ethereal keyboard sounds slowly fading in. It takes more than a minute and a half for the tune to ramp up. Multiple melodies are slowly intermixed. I'm not sure what is more haunting -- the intermittent flute or the short-lived chants around the mid-point and again closer to the end of this complex piece. It seems like every time I hear this track, I notice something I missed before.
"Autumn Interlude" has a light, almost airy quality to it. The piano dominates, backed by barely perceptible Gregorian chants. The flute makes another appearance. What caps this piece, however, are the beautiful vocals of Joyelle Brandt. Amethystium can mostly be considered an instrumental band, as most vocals/chanting are background in nature. This is one of the few tracks where the music supports the singer instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, she doesn't sing long enough, in my opinion!
"Elvensong" is aptly named. With the Lord of the Rings movies out, the race of elves is more on the mind than they otherwise would be. If the elves of Middle Earth were with us today, I would not be surprised to find them producing music such as this. With little imagination, it is easy to see how the dream-like quality of the music combines elements of magic and nature. Synave Flobak joins Oystein by playing cello on this track that definitely adds a sense of elven timelessness to the piece.
I enjoy ethereal electronica that fuses world music with keyboards. I think Amethystium supports this genre very well. I feel that both Odonata and Aphelion are excellent CDs. I don't think you could go wrong by purchasing either. But I would suggest you do yourself a favor. Save some time and get them both.