The Expedition

You’d think an epic, symphonic death metal band named after Icarus’s father would deliver a Greek mythology-based album. But what we have here is a concept album about Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated, 1845 artic expedition where two ships, Erebus and Terror, and their crews of 129 went missing (also the loose basis of the excellent 2018 TV show The Terror).

And this concept is the brainchild of drummer/pianist Tobias Püschner, formerly of German thrashers Revolt. He is aided by guest musicians and friends Martin Simon (Kambrium) on bass/backing vocals, Fabio Rossi (Tryglav) and Francesco Petrelli on guitars and female vocalist Noga Rotem). And he manages to perfectly meld the frozen, harrowing concept of the story into a fantastic, grandiose, blistering yet darkly atmospheric, symphonic black/death metal album.

The promo states that this is for fans of Dimmu Borgir, Wintersun, and Fleshgod Apocalypse. And that’s pretty spot on, especially the Wintersun part, as there’s a definite Finnish vibe running through the more shredding, blackened power metal riffs, and higher register, rasped vocals.  Also, Püschnerman really flexes his piano training with the songs written exclusively for the piano first, so there is a larger focus on an ivory-based backdrop, rather than more bombastic full-on orchestration (like my other recent symphonic metal discovery, Xaon), though there is some of that as well. Throw in all sorts of somber, clean (sailor-y) choirs and storytelling elements, and the piano-based writing is enveloped in some top-notch other stuff.

Case and point, the second standout track “Icewind”, where the piano is front and center with delicate pacing amid the icy blast beats and climaxes with some angelic haunting vocals from Noga Rotem (who should have been used way more). But it’s not just great piano work, there’s some solid riff penning here as well, as heard on “Sail to the Stars”, and personal favorites  “Married to the Sea” and “The Empress” and “Poem in the Snow” (based on the Robert Frost poem “Once by the Pacific”), which highlights more excellent piano work in its final moments, and “Northlight” which gave me a bit of a Bal Sagoth vibe, and balladic closer “Melancholy” and they have a little restraint and pacing.

On the very minor downside, the production is a bit dry and you’d think a drummer by trade would have a less synthetic drum sound, as they sound very programmed, and the album does tend to get a bit samey with the blast beats. However, The Expedition is still a damn fine debut album and a killer addition to my symphonic metal discoveries in 2022.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
August 25th, 2022


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