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Ecthalion
In the Embrace of Nocturnity

The first thing that will really strike you about this swanky mist-shrouded depressathon is not the ludicrously dour atmospherics, nor the plodding pace, nor the elaborate poetry of the lyrics... it’s the leads. Somehow the guitarist of this little group has managed to hit upon this magical perfectly mournful and piercing tone that evokes times long-forgotten and medieval, when women were pining damsels prone to wandering into enchanted forests to be seduced by leonine wood-spirits and men were content to watch the arboreal ravaging. Or something. Anyway, it sounds really good, this sobbing trebly guitar hooking the listener while the rest of the song bleeds out or plunges on with dead-eyed perseverance, every once in a while tainting itself by dipping into the headspace of mere mortals and engaging in a bit of dirty black metal riffage.

Strange introduction that. Anyway, this is a little record from an Estonian group going by the name of Ecthalion. Which you'd know from reading the last review, which is in my opinion a marvellous bit of literary analysis. I'm not even going to try to read anything into the dense poetry of these lyrics other than to say "Huh, deep man" and have some quiet affection for the way the lyrics of the title-track subtly shift from straight-laced and somewhat spiritless (albeit pretty) standard doomy goth wordsmithying to reveal a hint of humanity and masculine fire towards the end of the track. Go read the other review for introspection and Deep Thoughts. Here, I shall ramble about the music a bit.

Okay, firstly. This thing is a demo. It doesn't sound terrible, and you can hear everybody well enough but it is undeniably a demo. The mix feels somewhat washed out and murky, the aforementioned lead guitars being emphatically the loudest and most penetrating thing here. The bass, drums, and various stringed instruments are audible and do what they're supposed to (bass & drums: plod, stringed instruments: be melancholic and atmospheric). Unfortunately, the vocals of both sexes have a lot of trouble escaping the dulling pit of this low-budget recording and as such the male vocals often register as a mere wintry rasp or baritone hum underneath the instrumental ruckus. The female vocals attempt for the gothic overtones of a My Dying Bride or even a thespian Cradle of Filth, but unfortunately lack the near genius of the former and the upscale production values of the latter and as such come off as off-key, amateurish, and somewhat distracting. Like choir practice. A high school choir. Assembled of three women who've never sung before. I exaggerate I suppose, but suffice to say, they didn't get what they were after in this regard.

Songwriting-wise, the album has three or four major styles. The first is willowy acoustics. They do these rather well actually, with a crafted style reserved for top-tier balladeers such as Opeth. Highly emotive, beautiful at times, seemingly fleeting, hard to grasp, and highly delicate. Yes, the word I'm looking for here is 'ethereal', but I hate to use it because it makes me think of the last doom review I wrote. Ah yes The Ethereal, I've not forgotten about you. The day when we meet on the field of battle is almost nigh, Stjinn von Cauter! *ahem* Ecthalion also likes to lock into your traditional, ponderous modern doom stomp, heavy bass and guitar over a heavy drumbeat spiralling downward. When I say spiralling downward I refer to the way that the song always seems to be winding down, like we're nearing the end of an epic journey of rock and we've almost reached the part where they all jump up in the air at the same time and hit that last power chord so we can applaud. Except that this usually takes place around three minutes and change into an eleven minute song. The band also has a black metal element, rarely really jacking up the intensity to Marduk levels, but really cranking up the tremolo-picked riffage at times and even developing a tasty crunch during certain portions of winter-bound epic "Frost Glitters Beneath Its Surface" and the brisk-business nearly-not-slow "Laurelin".

Songwriting-wise, the key influences here have got to be Opeth and the gothic/doom scene of the early 90's. Structurally, it resembles a less aggressive but more direct Opeth... same shifts between long folk and metal passages, but with less of the sick hooky groove Opeth can bring to the table. It’s obvious that they have been influenced by the band, but don't share Akerfeldt's admiration for the likes of Morbid Angel. In fact, in spite of the snarling nastiness and nihilistic death-obsessed lyrics the band conforms to neither the crushing heaviness of a Celestial Season nor the riffless-wonders stillborn from any number of 'faggoth' bands. From looking at the tracklist, you'll notice that the record is pretty much divided between tracks hovering around five minutes and tracks looming beyond ten. This is all well and good, but aside from "Laurelin" most of the short tracks, if put together with other short tracks would result in something virtually identical to the ten-minute tracks. The best example of this involves the first three tracks. "Nonexistant Souls" is basically a really long acoustic intro which eventually gives up a moody, melodic electric lead and is followed by "In the Embrace of Nocturnity" which is a reasonably straight-forward heavy track. Put these together and you've got something not unlike Opeth's "The Moor". "Frost Glitters Beneath the Surface" starts acoustic and goes to a nasty electric section in the latter half... not unlike Opeth's "The Moor". The only difference between the sum of tracks one and two and track three is the brief (and pretty) piano bridge connecting the parts in the latter song.

So yeah, good demo. Been five years since it came out, so I'm not expecting a follow-up. But hey, its well worth your time to go grab for free from their website. I didn't have much to say about how effective the atmosphere is, how effective it is at creating a mood which is key for artists in this genre. That's because the other review did it well. Even if you don't give a toss about the Goddess of Undeath and other somesuch shit, he nailed the mood directly. This album is great for repose, for sitting back and allowing your darkest emotions bleed out into the music. It isn't going to replace Slave to the Grind or Double Live Gonzo in the old cassette deck in your car... but its not a bad way to fall gently into sleep, nor a bad companion in your more wistful and wakeful moments.

Stand-Outs: "Frost Glitters Beneath Its Surface", "As the World Drowns in Rivers of Tears", "Laurelin"

Author: OlympicSharpshooter
Zine: Encyclopaedia Metallum
www.metal-archives.com

Check also:
Other reviews
08-12-2014 Taak - Koerapööriöö
22-02-2013 Urt - Ussikuningas - Saatanhark II
18-02-2013 Neoandertals - Ebu Gogo Gutting the Child
show all reviews


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User comments for this release:

Marcelo  02.11.2004 06:20
I´m from Brazil, and I think this album rox a lot!


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