The sonic tightrope of blackened death metal is tricky one, isn’t it? Too much ‘black’ sends the death metal crowd to the bar; too much ‘death’ and black metal fans fuck off for the nearest cave to hang upside-down in. At least that’s how I like to imagine it. Myself, I’m very much the former. It’s not that I dislike black metal — I’m just rarely in the mood for it. Too often it seems to be singular in its approach to atmosphere — like an auditory version of Amityville Horror, but with an alternate storyline that has nothing but a priest getting chased around by flies for NINETY minutes.
Once in a while, a band like Ontario’s Eclipser comes along and is able to put a fresh twist on things. With their debut album, Pathos, Eclipser blends melodic passages, atmospherics, unnerving dissonance, and churning riffs into a rich listening experience.
The album opens with (coincidentally) the sound of buzzing flies from the track On Mournful Waves Of Eternal Dusk, which foreshadows the coming exploration into every nook and cranny of spiritual and physical decay. The message is delivered through the terrifying, anguished shrieks provided by vocalist Francesco Falsetto (appropriately named), his rasp periodically broken up with the earthy, guttural timbre of vocalist/guitarist, Ryan Menard – a troll/orc duet.
Second guitarist, Christian Beaupré, along with Menard create waves of dual, atonal guitar lines that crest, then crash against each other, sometimes resolving sympathetically, even bittersweet at times, and on other occasions blending into a sort of hypnotic discordance. Drummer Chris Joyal creates a controlled chaos while bassist Seb Choquette burrows around the mix like a sinuous dune worm, the showcase track being The Key Of Grievous Calamity where all the musical elements really come together. And the entire album is very listenable thanks to the overall superb production.
Eclipser do more than just take elements of black and death metal and split the difference among each one — they treat the music as if it were a complex cocktail, varying the distribution of bitters, sours, and even sweets to flavour each song. The closest band I can think of as a reference point would be a more controlled sounding Deathspell Omega, especially when perusing the elegentally written lyrics that cover the ground between hopelessness and metaphysical blasphemy.
If moody, brutal, atmospheric blackened death is your thing, Pathos needs to be put into your little grim, frostbitten ear-holes..
Pathos is out on September 6th