Review & Track Premiere: Black Space Riders, Amoretum Vol. 2


[Click play above to stream ‘Ch Ch Ch Ch Pt. II (Living in My Dream)’ from Black Space Riders’ Amoretum Vol. 2. Album is out July 27.]

That must have been one hell of a writing session. At the very beginning of this year, German progressonauts Black Space Riders issued Amoretum Vol. 1 (review here), which wildly spanned genres across an eight-track/45-minute run. It was said at the time that Amoretum Vol. 2 — think: “an arboretum of love” — would follow closely behind, and one could hardly do anything but take the band at their word. But they’ve followed chapters one and two, which coincided with the two sides of the first LP, with a double-album — sides C, D, E and F — that total a whopping 14 tracks and 68 minutes. I don’t want to go around telling anyone their business, but Black Space Riders might have considered putting together a few more songs and adding a Vol. 3 to the saga. After all, everyone loves a good trilogy, and December will be here before any of us know it.

All kidding aside, the project is resoundingly ambitious in its concept and in the actual execution of its stylistic drive. Those familiar with Black Space Riders‘ prior work — 2016’s Beyond Refugeeum EP (discussed here), 2015’s Refugeeum (review here) long-player, 2014’s D:REI (discussed here), 2012’s Light is the New Black (review here) and their 2010 self-titled debut (review here) — know that the band has grown to encompass a significant creative sphere, and that they’re no strangers to hopping from genre to genre or experimenting with their sound in order to make a specific statement. As to the statement they’re making with Amoretum Vol. 2 and really the pair of both records with the title, it might be summed up in the hook of second track “Lovelovelovelovelovelovelovelove Love (Break the Pattern of Fear),” which proffers the following: “Fear leads to anger, fear leads to hate/Hate leads to suffering, suffering and pain/So love love love love love love love love,” etc.

That chorus arrives amid a manic tumult of thoughtful and hard-hitting progressive metal that caps in galloping drums beneath and a keyboard line above muted crashes in succession and of course leads to the ambient linear build of “Walls Away” and the winding Celtic-inspired riff of “Slaínte (Salud, Dinero, Amor),” because that’s how it goes with Black Space Riders at this stage in their tenure: it goes. Far. The initials-only returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist/organist/programmer JE and compatriots, vocalist Seb, drummer/percussionist C.RIP, guitarist SLI, bassist SAQ and newer bassist MEI continue aggressive thrust on “Assimilating Love” and earlier cuts like opener “Before My Eyes,” “Lovelovelovelovelovelovelovelove Love (Break the Pattern of Fear),” and the later “Ch Ch Ch Ch Pt. II (Living in My Dream),” but this is no more a defining factor than the atmospheric breadth of highlight cut “Leaves of Life (Falling Down),” the resonant guitars of chapter five leadoff “Take Me to the Stars” or the harsh-vocals over post-rock guitar on the penultimate “No Way.” Scope is what Black Space Riders do best.

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It works because they don’t lose track of the songcraft in that process. And again, that must have been one hell of a writing session. To come out of it with a collection of at least 22 total tracks topping 100 minutes between them to spread across two albums while working across aesthetics around a consistent theme? Not a minor undertaking and a considerable achievement in the realization. As Amoretum Vol. 2 dives deeper into its chapters, the vibe becomes even thicker. “Take Me to the Stars” leads into the seven-minute cosmic drone build of “Ch Ch Ch Ch Pt. I (The Ugly Corruptor),” which leads the way fluidly into the nodding intro riff of “Ch Ch Ch Ch Pt. II (Living in My Dream),” and while “Chain Reaction” has its hand-claps, standout bassline, percussion and gang shouts, its pace is still more or less in the middle, giving itself over to the willful incongruity of manic drums and post-rock airy guitar in “No Way,” that transition also somehow smooth into the quiet start of 13-minute closer “The Wait is Never Over.”

And of course that final track is a focal point. How could it not be? Black Space Riders, whose sense of purpose is writ large in every facet of Amoretum, set themselves to the task of summarizing the stretch they’ve undertaken, and there’s just about no way they didn’t know when they were putting it together that “The Wait is Never Over” would finish off record(s). There’s simply nowhere else to put it. An initial linear build starts from silence to comprise the first half of the song while a break after the halfway point brings it down to almost reggae-rhythmed mellow vibes, only to surge out again and cap with a residual noise. All the while, controlled keyboard and effects swirls, vocals, bass and drums match pace with the guitar, giving a forward mentality consistent with what’s come before but stretching beyond prior limits. At around 10 minutes, the noise wash arrives to carry Amoretum Vol. 2 to its finish, ring-outs and crashes marking the end of the band’s journey. They might’ve been able to do a Vol. 3 if they wanted, but there’s little question left as to the fact that they’ve finished Vol. 2.

These are interesting and in some ways deeply trying times. Alliances that have lasted decades are dissipating. Centers of global power and leadership are shifting. Not all changes are for the better, and that’s a vicious, vicious understatement. Black Space Riders seem to be offering a reminder of the human center of all the sociopolitical goings on — that it’s not just about vague or even concrete notions of policy, or populism, or economics, but about people living their lives and working to make the world around them a little better for their being there. “In Our Garden” reminds of this with its peaceful and methodical drift, as does the urgency of Amoretum Vol. 2 earlier going. It may well be that the album is looking to convey the idea of the place where love grows, and if so, all the better, since love and passion are so obviously behind the creative spirit that birthed it in the first place.

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