Solo projects have become more common of recent, it seems, especially in black metal (see: Alcest, Ihsahn, Blut Aus Nord, &c). This Melbourne, Australia based project offers what they call an “atmospheric metal” approach to sound. Combining folk, metal, classical, and symphony, Aquilus’ sound is thick, rich, and layered. It never ever feels quite as heavy or as light as it seems. If Agalloch, using a similar sound, forged the Cascadian Black Metal genre, then Aquilus feels as if they are forging the Hymnal Black Metal approach.
In their bandcamp description, they tag their band as palatial metal and to an extent it is metal chamber music: think, dense, and yet still stunningly discernible in sound. It is like a thick smoke hanging in the top of the room. Its spirit slowly fades in the song “Nihil” and does not end until the last note of the “Night Bell.” No individual track stands out to me and none of the movements in the song feel unoriginal or derivative.
A simplistic description of their sound does it very little good and is hard to approximate. On one hand, it feels somewhat like an Agalloch-inspired black metal band using Catholic or church style symphonic; however, that is too simplistic because I honestly could probably spend entries describing individual songs off this album. Suffice to say, you always feel the acoustic sounds echoing in the background of the most soul crushing black metal, while the keys and synths build the energy of the music, all the while following a classical structure it seems.
In the end, this is a short review of this album because it is hard to qualify its density. It is like a layer cake with a new surprise in each layer. It will not be for everyone and cannot please the most sincere of prog fans or black metal fans. For those that enjoy it, even casually, be prepared for a ride.