Aborted drummer and multi-instrumentalist Ken Bedene, his father and bassist Frank Bedene, and vocalist Aaron Green are here to show the world that melodic death metal can be plenty interesting in 2018. It just needed to be put in capable hands with a fresh perspective.
Aerith‘s self-titled debut EP is a love letter to the genre. Aside from nailing the hallmark melodeath sounds, such as impeccable lead guitar and all-encompassing keyboards, the release features a formidable list of guest guitar soloists. This includes Darkest Hour‘s Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan, Nightrage‘s Marios Iliopoulos, Benjamin Ellis formerly of Bloodshot Dawn and currently of Scar Symmetry, and Orpheus Omega‘s Chris Themelco. Coupled with the beautiful voice of Melrose‘s Melissa Rosenburg on the songs “Beyond Terminus” and “Fractured Soul,” it’s safe to assume even before listening that Aerith has the requisite firepower to accomplish something great. Fortunately, they do.
Aerith slowly rolls the volume knob up with a small orchestra of guitars and soundscapes on “The Wanderer” before launching into the furious blasts and atmospheric choruses of “Beyond Terminus.” The song is a prime example of how to effectively use strings as a backdrop without being overbearing, as well as a masterclass on guitar solos courtesy of Ellis. Mirroring “Beyond Terminus” is “The Uprising,” which brings out the strings less and relies much more on the former’s “At The Gates meets Mercenary” riffing style.
Aerith knocks off some of the speed on both “Fractured Soul” and closer “A Cosmic Calling,” and presents a slightly altered writing style to go along with the change. Unlike “Beyond Terminus” or “The Uprising,” Aerith purposefully and methodically crafts hulking riffs that build just enough tension to satisfyingly explode into lead guitar lines that may not ever leave your memory. “Fractured Soul” is the perfect example of this, as its five-minute length is mostly melodic mutations of the opening riff, all of which are equally catchy. Though if there’s a pinnacle of unforgettable theme writing on Aerith, it’s “Temptress.” That song is just too good and will be stuck in your head indefinitely.
There are only two minor speed bumps on Aerith, one being the opener “The Wanderer.” The song fades in, adds a keyboard, does what it does, and then fades out. It doesn’t play into the opening of “Beyond Terminus” and it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s inconsequential to the EP, but it’s also only one uneventful minute of 25 otherwise great minutes. The other point is the acoustic interlude in “Fractured Soul,” which is sadly inaudible under the loud keyboards and lone electric guitar.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Melodic death metal is buried neck-deep in cheesy bands or artists so derivative of the classics that it’s near impossible to find one worth listening to in 2018. The handful of good ones are great, but by and large, the genre is suffocating under its own weight of mediocrity. Aerith sits comfortably atop even the best bands of the pile and, if they can continue to meet and exceed the high bar they’ve set for themselves on this self-titled EP, will continue to do so indefinitely.
Grab Aerith here.