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Ephel Duath - "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" (CD)

Ephel Duath - "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" CD cover image

"Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" track listing:

1. Feathers Under My Skin
2. Tracing The Path Of Blood
3. When Mind Escapes Flesh
4. Within This Soil
5. Those Gates To Nothing
6. Through Flames I Shield
7. Hemmed By Light
8. Shaped by Darkness

Reviewed by on February 4, 2014

"More structured than the previous release, 'Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness' walks a tight rope, balancing between the avant-garde and the mundane."

Following-up the short 2012 EP “On Death and Cosmos,” Ephel Duath brings out a proper full-length consisting of the core unit Davide Tiso, drummer Marco Minneman, and vocalist Karyn Crisis, with guest spots from Erik Rutan and Bryan Beller. More structured than the previous release, “Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness” walks a tight rope, balancing between the avant-garde and the mundane.

As might be expected based on the band’s previous releases, the song structures are fairly surreal, with a bit of that prog/jazz style for good measure. Rather than going completely crazy and aimless though, the album is odd without being chaotic, and slightly experimental without losing structure. The end result definitely has moments well worth hearing, but overall the soundscapes end up feeling fairly barren, like the album is missing some extra piece to tie it all together.

Everything on the disc revolves strongly around the guitar work, which varies between meandering prog and heavier riffs. All the other instruments sort of play second fiddle, finding ways to exist around the guitars. The opening track “Feathers Under My Skin” has a solid bass presence and some interesting ideas, although at the end there’s a lingering impression that the track could have made a bigger impact simply by upping the speed or adding in just a touch of brutality. In fact, most of the songs feel like a slight tempo shift would really take them up a notch and skyrocket the album out of “it’s alright” territory into something much more exciting.

The vocals found throughout the tracks are different from the norm on black or death releases, which is a nice change of pace, but there’s not a lot of variation and the delivery gets repetitive. Ending track “Shaped By Darkness” does throw in some twists on the formula, but as a whole the middle of the road approach, accompanied by the repetitive vocals, makes this an album with decent individual songs but somewhat of a flop when taken as a whole.

Highs: The vocals are different from the norm, and the jazzy guitar work is frequently interesting.

Lows: Although different, the vocals are also very repetitive, and the album feels like it doesn't go far enough in any one direction.

Bottom line: Somehow both experimental and heavily structured, this album dips its toes in both sides without really jumping into either.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)