Unexplainable sound, phantom gathering ground
It is quite unusual to receive a promo package from a band that only released an album in 1998, producing nothing since. However, in the world of vanguard metal, you should never be surprised by anything (or was it the other way around?), so I was rather stoked when this forgotten sapphire took a dive into my living room. EBONYLAKE (one word, it seems) was - or rather, is, as they are working on a new album today, twelve years later - a British ensemble led by main vocalist, guitarist and composer Ophelius, releasing as mentioned only this album (plus a preceding demo the year before), on the ill-fated UK label Cacaphonous. (Now this is interesting; this must have been one of the last releases of Frater Nihil. As you may remember, he released not only the first three albums from CRADLE OF FILTH and BAL-SAGOTH, but also several other interesting bands - DIMMU BORGIR at their best, SIGH, GEHENNA, PRIMORDIAL, ROOT - making this label one of the most interesting of the nineties, next to countrymate Misanthropy. But anyway.)
Where was I? Right, the music. An eclectic mixture of theatrical bombast, violent and technical black/death metal, ravaging symphonics, clean and raucously screamed voices, telling sombre and mysterious fragments of what seems to be half-written, half-dreamt Gothic phantasmagoria, dizzying and
haunting, heavy-laden with obscure symbolism and meaning; invisible ghosts hiding behind velvet curtains, the horrific dissolution of consciousness, feverish dreams of impending demise; staple elements of Gothic horror, (an example, from "The Author of the Burning Flock": At the bottom of the winding staircase and out onto the cobbles, in a drunken rage I burst, things learing, towering / Then... / ... / Picking apples in the moonlight was pleasant, we stood on the corpses to reach them, letting the radiant summer morning creep through our windows stirs no memories, but the fattening well-fed rooks help us to remember!! - and like that it continues, each of the six lyrical tracks filling out their respective pages in the booklet; I am quite enthused! Quite!)
(..., A mix of KOROVAKILL's all-over-the-place weirdness & fuzzy arrangements, DEVIL DOLL's theatrical Gothicism, CRADLE OF FILTH's overtly British literacy, BAL-SAGOTH's synthesized bombast, DEATH's technicality, but still searingly unique in sound and sense...)
A hall of unearthly woodwind spews down from the Master. My angel beats her wings in the void of his garden. The waves clash up forming a sculpture of a renaissance, this being the eve of the gallant and the grimly inventive.
Quite erudite and technically accomplished, the arrangements tower and cascade to the skies like some Byronesque stormwind at sunset, unsuspectingly halting and recommencing the beats, twisting ecstatically, feverishly in a dark emerald labyrinth; the hands of the beloved deceased fluttering across the monochrome keys of the piano, the frailty of the pale aristocrat's decrepit mind made music, melancholy beautiful and eerily whispering. So much is happening, so many quirks and details, that you miss half of them, but you can still orientate yourself within; you're not completely lost and confused, only held at an arm's length from what is (might) be happening. Shadowy murmurs. As it should be.
This is the kind of album which should have been stumped by some inadequacy in the performance - this level of both lyrical and musical ambition and, dare I say, pretension, should in the grand scheme of things be punished by some Nemesis of poor taste; untuned guitars, poor drum mix, clean vocalists (both male and female, though preferably the latter to cement the sexist trope) horrendously out of tune, embarrassingly bad keyboard sound (OK, it's not good, but for 1998 it sounds just fine, though most metalheads would shudder at the mere thought of it)... But in fact, I find it hard to find any flaws of that kind here. Yes, it is supremely pretentious, and wading through its own self-satisfied resplendence - but I cannot avoid adoring it; EBONYLAKE do not lose their self-respect and integrity, they are merely being honest in their expression, which rates higher than almost anything in my book (of red). Haunting metallic fantasies to lose oneself deep within. Safe to say, I expect quite a lot from their new album. The excerpts on their myspace show quite some potential.
Blood and snow serenade, immense anger of the clouds.
Unknown paths of the mind, macabre gut-churning sounds.
1. The Author Of The Burning Flock
2. The Wanderings Of Ophelia Through The Untamed Countryside
3. On The Eve Of The Grimly Inventive
4. Within Deepest Red (The Opening Of...)
5. An Autumn To Cripple Children
6. A Voice In The Piano
7. The Music And Woe Between Horse Thieves