EPHEL DUATH — Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness (review)

EPHEL DUATH — Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness album cover Album · 2013 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
"Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" is the 6th full-length studio album by Italian (US based) avant garde metal act Ephel Duath. The album was released through Agonia Records in November 2013. It´s been a couple of years since the release of "Through My Dog's Eyes (2009)", but mainman behind Ephel Duath, Davide Tiso have kept himself busy with his solo project Manuscripts Don't Burn and the "The Breathing House (2010)" EP and with the "On Death and Cosmos (2012)" EP released under the Ephel Duath monicker. "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" features the same lineup that recorded the latter mentioned. Karyn Crisis (vocals), Davide Tiso (guitars), Bryan Beller (bass), Marco Minnemann (drums).

Stylistically the music on the album also more or less continues down the same path as the music on the "On Death and Cosmos (2012)" EP. Quirky, dissonant, aggressive and progressive extreme metal, that´s very hard to describe correctly. Ephel Duath have always been a pretty unique sounding act, even though they´ve changed their sound quite a bit over the years. While some artists mellow and become more accessible over the course of their career, it´s like the exact opposite has happened with Ephel Duath, who since their early black metal beginnings have become more and more odd with each new release. Always challenging conventions and pushing boundaries.

"Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" is no exception and it´s overall an extremely challenging release. The music doesn´t feature many memorable hooks and the almost constant use of dissonance can be a bit hard on the ears. The musicianship are on a high level on all places. Personally I have a hard time appreciating Karyn Crisis raw, toneless and rather strained vocal delivery, but I´m sure it´s a case of aquired taste and she is as such not a bad vocalist. Maybe it´s simply the quality of the material, that´s making her performance stand out in a negative light. The word toneless actually describes the music pretty well and even when Karyn Crisis attempts to include a couple of memorable hooklines (like she does in "Tracing the Path of Blood") it all sounds more or less the same. And that is THE major issue with "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness". It might be professionally produced and powerful sounding and very well performed (the instrumental performances are outstanding), but it´s just not that memorable. Sometimes to a point where I don´t notice when one track ends and another begins.

So my criticism is a bit harsh this time around, but sometimes "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" feels too much like art for art´s sake. An introvert release, that isn´t necessarily meant for the ears of an audience. In some ways it´s an intriguing experiment, but it´s simply too one-dimensional to be entertaining throughout the full playing time of an album. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.
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