Review: Apotheus – The Far Star

Apotheus is a four-man melodic metal outfit hailing from Paços de Ferreira, Portugal. Being formed back in 2008 they haven’t been overly active on the release front, the count stops at four: a demo, a single, an EP and a full-length that dates back to 2013 and is called When Hope and Despair Collide, an event I’d rather not witness. All this may not sound too impressive, but considering the fact the band has a relatively extensive list of former members and the fact they have replaced half of their line-up since their last release it’s not too bad a result. Now, after some six years of radio silence the guys are getting ready to finally release some new material, which comes in the form of another full-length. It’s a concept album due to be released on October the 31st and is called The Far Star. Of the original quintet only vocalist/rhythm guitarist Miguel Andrade and drummer Albano von Hammer are still part of Apotheus, lead guitarist Luís “Gold Monkey” and bassist Daniel Rocha complete the current line-up, making it a quartet now.

Like I said The Far Star is a concept album that tells the tale of life in the year 6538 UTS (Universal Time System) in which everyone suffers. You’re either upper class living the seven sins or lower class living the opposite of the seven sins. There’s a small group of highly intelligent people called The Gifted that tries to bring order and improvement to the current world ultimately leading to a plan to colonize another planet, near the edge of their universe, which they called The Far Star. The full story is of course way more detailed and actually pretty well thought-out. Opener Prelude actually manages to get you in the right mind set to enter the world of The Gifted due to its soundscapes that give you a futuristic feel somehow. Even though it musically adds nothing to The Far Star that fact alone is enough to justify this intro. The musical aspect however is taken care of by successor Caves of Steel, which not only serves as a musical introduction to the story and The Gifted, but also as an introduction to Apotheus’ musical path, which is indeed best classified as melodic metal, but with a healthy dose of death metal here and there, not in the least due to the grunts. On top of that there’s clearly quite a few prog influences, which only seems fitting considering the concept behind this album, and a few rather ambient-feeling parts. But in all honesty, when you listen carefully there’s influences from many more genres audible, most strikingly present in Redshift.

All in all a seemingly complicated musical structure which has to be composed and executed perfectly in order to avoid messy, sloppy tunes. No need for concern here, though, the guys have composed some memorable compositions and, equally important, they are perfectly capable to execute them as they are intended. All this from listening to just the opener? Well, no. I pretty much strayed off my usual path of following the album structure and went ahead of myself to describe the general feel and impression of this release and its structure and execution. The above described song structure inevitably means a lot of changes in pace, heaviness and style, which definitely is the case here. However, these changes are embedded with so much meticulousness they seamlessly take place and most of the time you will not even consciously notice them. Kudos, that is no easy feat.

The result is a complete package where the main role is for melodic metal which is augmented by the power of death metal, the frivolity of prog and the subtle yet well-placed use of some ambient aspects to create a different atmosphere in a heartbeat. The vocals are a huge factor in this, stretching from emotional and clean to rough grunts depending on the desired atmosphere, but that pretty much applies to every single aspect of Apotheus’ music. The rhythm section can be both ultra-tight and loosely guiding, again depending on the desired atmosphere, which can also be said from the guitar lines. Consequently each individual song is an experience of its own and can be enjoyed separately without the need to listen to the entire album. Whether you prefer the melodic side of metal, like in The Brightest Sun, the rougher side, like in Staring the Abyss, or even the subtly more ominous side, like in Save Our Ship, it is all there to be discovered in every song. Not always in the same partitions though, which keeps things even more interesting.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I love this release. There’s subtle hints in the communication by the band that leads me to believe that this album is just the beginning and there’s more to come. Of course that could easily be a case of wishful thinking, but I for one would be thrilled if this would not end here. As far as I’m concerned Apotheus is on to something here, a path well worth continuing, but sadly I’m not the one to decide. Anyway, their carefully composed melodic metal is subtly spiced with a generous touch of heaviness, a tiny pinch of darkness and a good shot of prog, making this a more than pleasant ride for almost all metal fans. The six years of radio silence and the relatively many line-up changes clearly have not influenced the quality of the material they have created, nor the expertly execution of said material. A beautiful creation that more than deserves a definite recommendation from me. This one will be on a high spot in my year list for sure.

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