Amber Tears have been one of my favorite Russian bands over the last few years, starting with their 2010 sophomore effort The Key To December, and now their debut is back in print and is one of my top melodic pagan metal releases of the year, actually, the only one, as this one has a more doom tint and I don’t generally like the genre all that much as a whole. Unlike much of the pagan metal genre where the rhythms and folklore/folk lineage have taken a bit too much of a literal translation in the music itself giving it a sort of ridiculousness at times that kills the previous founding efforts of Bathory, Windir, Falkenbach, Summoning…
Amber Tears, quite possibly due to my recent Summoning listening marathons, at times do bear a strong resemblance to Summoning minus the Tolkien lyrics… and an addition of Evoken-like doom. The Summoning vibe is especially felt on the 6th and 7th songs with their majestic “homeward journey” atmospheres. My guess is that the lyrics here deal with Russian heritage and lore, but given that the entire album is in Russian, text and lyrics, I can’t say for certain but it’s a very likely bet that they do given all the sound itself. The vocals range from doom death to deep black metal growls and are evenly balanced either within a song or between songs, never too harsh or too extreme. In other words they don’t sound like a pack of wild bears ( a way an ex-coworkers wife said most of his listening choices sounded like). Occasionally there are clean, spoken word poetic narratives to induce atmosphere, but virtually no clean “singing” is prevalent except for on the fifth and sixth songs where they make an appearance.
The riffs are heavy all the way through, down-tuned of course, but not suffocating like doom death often can be… there’s a lot of air to breathe and sensations of times past but not forgotten. I enjoy the clean production that places the riffs in the mix with the melodic leads upfront and crisp percussion with a solid bass thump for the bass drum giving it a more primal pagan feel. Again, I’m not big on the pagan metal style overall for reasons as said already, but Amber Tears gives a transfusion of new blood into the old bringing about a perfect meeting of old and new eras that is memorable and distinct, without obvious tendencies and fitting into anything intentionally.
Fans of Evoken, Summoning, Kampfar, Windir should take a definite interest.