Mountain vistas of sombre forests stretching towards the horizon, majestic ruins of medieval castles still standing proud on ragged cliffs, water spirits lurking in dark moorlands beckoning unwary wanderer to the depths – the very same motifs that inspired the painters and poets of German Romanticism have also given rise to EMPYRIUM in 1994.
With their sixth full-length, ‘Über den Sternen‘, a metaphorical German translation of their band name meaning “Above the Stars”, EMPYRIUM still draw from the magic and spirits of wild places, nature’s beauty, and human relics of ages long past. ‘Über den Sternen‘ echoes this reconciliation of the old with the new on a musical level as well.
The Franconian duo is putting more emphasis on the electric guitars and harsh vocals again, which marked their first two albums and stood strong upon the band’s melodic black metal foundations. Yet EMPYRIUM also revisits the dark folk style, which the Germans had progressively embraced on their third and fourth albums.
What used to appear to be a crossroad in their musical development has now merged into one breath-taking sound. The combined force of mastermind, multi-instrumentalist, clean and extreme vocalist as well as producer Markus “Schwadorf” Stock and classical singer Thomas Helm, who lends his amazing voice also to the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, is painting a radiant sonic picture. It comes with the melancholic grounding of the sophomore album ‘Songs of Moors & Misty Fields‘ (1997), adds brushstrokes of the fairy-tale tempera colors of ‘Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays’ (1999), and also makes use of a few hues from the palette that DEAD CAN DANCE have infused with world music, which EMPYRIUM have already employed on ‘The Turn of the Tides‘ (2014). The crowning varnish is diligently crafted from rougher elements that reach all the way back to the Germans’ legendary debut ‘A Wintersunset…’ (1996). ‘We have found a new balance’, Markus Stock emphasizes. “We have finally reconciled our vintage sound from the early days with the acoustic expression of the later EMPYRIUM.”
Staying true to the Romantic tradition, EMPYRIUM continues to take inspiration for their lyrical flights of fantasy from the local myths, ancient places, and natural wonders of the Rhön Mountains and their Lower Franconian homeland in the west of Germany. This strong connection to both artists’ personal roots is also mirrored in the cinematic expression of their songs that allows a glimpse into the deepest, most heartfelt places of the musicians’ souls.
With an eye for detail, the creation of the artwork for ‘Über den Sternen’ was entrusted to a long-time member of the live-band and graphic artist Fursy Teyssier. The LES DISCRETS mastermind once again succeeded in capturing the album’s quintessence in his cover art.
A circle is closing, and with EMPYRIUM‘s label Prophecy Productions, which was initially founded with the mission to release the band’s debut album, celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2021, it happens in more than one way.
EMPYRIUM has released the first single taken from their forthcoming album ‘Über den Sternen’, which is slated for release on February 26, 2021.
EMPYRIUM comment: “The title track is also one of the last songs that we wrote for ‘Über den Sternen’ and its title has been with us for many moons before the music to this song was actually written”, reveals mastermind Markus Stock. “Music and lyrics are an ode to the nocturnal sky and the eternal mysteries it unfolds with every nightfall. Based on a quote from German poet Friedrich Schiller, ‘Über den Sternen’, which translates as ‘Above the Stars’ surely is a perfect title for an Empyrium album considering that our band name meant the farthest, fiery sphere of heaven in medieval cosmology. Musically it truly is a journey through many sonic landscapes that paint very detailed pictures before your mind’s eye – the awe-inspiring twinkle of the stars we marvel at with childlike amazement, but also the vast and cold, black nothingness of the universe that makes us crouch in fear of the unknown. With this song, we are indulging in such juxtapositions. ‘Über den Sternen’ is as Empyrium as it gets to me and it amalgamates elements from every phase of the band with fresh colors and hues to a new epic grandeur. Now delve into the nightly sphere!”
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