While Aelter may technically only be a side project for Blake Green—his main gig being the Idaho-based experimental band Wolvserpent—it’s hardly to be treated as such. He’s been making this kind of music for quite some time, exploring sparse sounds and harsh landscapes while pulling from influences ranging from Swans to Nick Cave (both the Bad Seeds and his work with Warren Ellis). The new full-length, Aelter IV: Love Eternal, is a beautiful journey through the dark roots of western Americana. Aelter’s become a fully-realized entity, and the melancholy they pour forth truly stands alone.
It’s not easy to review an ambient album. For starters, there is an excess of space throughout Aelter IV, and writing about space, or nothingness, is nearly impossible using anything other then telepathy and facial gestures. The album has four movements: “Death Eternal,” “Love Eternal,” “Life Eternal” and “Hope Eternal.” Those four songs, along with the intro, account for a roughly forty-minute album that not only tugs at your heart strings but also opens channels of your mind.
“Death Eternal” opens the album with a kind of gothic feel, with ambient touches that call to mind damp, echoing caves. It’s got touches of darkwave and touches of pop throughout. The vocals are heavily goth-influenced, which shrouds the voice in a dripping, overtly sexual romanticism. As the album proceeds, “Love Eternal,” “Life Eternal” and “Death Eternal” all take a decidedly country-like turn. The guitars turn the reverb to eleven and the tambourine becomes a crucial timekeeper. You might go as far as to say this album becomes a crossover ambient country/metal album. Fans of bands like Grails, Lanterna, The Slim Westerns and This Will Destroy You will be happy to hear that. But don’t be fooled, the vocals, and the core of the album, remain heavily gothic—rooted in a darkness. A darkness which calls to mind the blood riddled dust upon which America was founded.
To editorialize for a moment, I feel as if this album has perfect timing. Television shows like Deadwood, Better Call Saul and True Detective—and films like There Will be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James and Australia’s The Proposition—have all, at times, capitalized on either the sparse landscapes of desert America or have used ambient country to influence our moods during their more intense scenes. I don’t see this as bad. Rather, I see it as the beginnings of a great movement in audio and visual art that seeks to attach our current interests and behaviors to our roots. And the roots of America are certainly dark and blood-stained. Aelter IV: Love Eternal would surely make a great auditory accompaniment to any of those cinematic triumphs.
There is romance in the desolation—take the photography community’s never-ending, saccharin, romantic, post-apocalyptic view of the destruction of Detroit. Aelter, however, calls to mind the desolate, cracked landscapes of North America that populate New Mexico, Arizona and west Texas. These are the lands on which American evils were born. I would suggest listening to this album while reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West—arguably the greatest American novel ever written. For those who know me, you will know what a compliment that is. Aelter has created a soundtrack for the dark Americana that we enjoy most in our lives. A truly enjoyable record for when times seem bleakest.