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Can metal be beautiful? Surely it can be rough, loud, aggressive, abrasive, energizing, forceful, even cathartic... but beautiful? I believe that it can, and I believe that ea is a good example of such beauty. Part of what makes metal beautiful is the contrasts it can offer by placing softer interludes in the midst of a sea of brutal and crushingly heavy riffage and guttural screams. But perhaps "softer" is not the right word, as that would imply a delicacy and fragility not present; parts can only be called softer in comparison to other parts, but certainly there are no soft parts here compared to, say, a pop record. All of this record, even the less heavy parts, have a vibrancy and strength to them. Even when the music slows to a crawl of a few bare notes, even then there is a certain power present in the music. Indeed, it is in such moments of restraint that some of the most enduring music is made.
There is an intricacy to the whole of ea, sporadic at times and multi-layered at others, yet often with a stirring synergy. This fluctuation between restraint and fullness builds up the depth and breadth, note by note, like some musical three-dimensional object. However, ea does not have a final consummation point; rather, it is like a mountain range with numerous peaks. Between the peaks are slopes and valleys, which symbolize not differences in quality but simply a change in tone, speed, instruments, etc. Thus there are multiple climaxes--different parts evoking different feelings--rather than one long build-up with a final climax near the end. In fact, my favorite part, and perhaps the highest peak, comes during the guitar solo, which starts around the thirty-minute mark, a peak that happens fifteen minutes before the end.
Several times the music grows from a youthful sparseness to a mature fullness, mirroring nicely the struggles and triumphs of musicians to write and mold music, bringing them from seeds of initial ideas to full bloom. This is remarkable when a musician or band can do it correctly for an entire record, and perhaps even more impressive when confining yourself to only one song to do it with.
Upon first listen to ea some of the melodies can seem overly simplistic, but these are times when less is definitely more, and it is a simplicity of design rather than necessity. Sometimes a song simply works better with a moderated or restrained approach. Indeed, it is the minimalistic parts of ea that I most often find to be striking, and they magnify the beautiful elements before and after. The album also manages to be minimalistic without being tediously repetitive or lacking in flow. Least of all could it be considered boring.
This talk of minimalism should not be taken to mean that ea is completely lacking in more intricate or faster parts, it's just that these peaks only show up when appropriate. At times there are half a dozen musical elements (several guitars, drums, keyboard, vocals) all going at once. All fits together like a mosaic, some pieces larger or brighter, but all making up a beautiful and cohesive whole. From the first note to the last--in fact the same note is used--the album invites you to experience the music, to feel it, not simply to listen to it.
I think that this is an amazing album, and it's difficult for me to come up with some negatives. I suppose some might consider parts disjointed, pasted together. I don't hear it this way, but I can understand how someone might think so. Also, the guitar tone at times is, let's say, rather lacking. I think it actually works within the context of the song (and subgenre generally), but some might wish for a more melodic or pleasant tone. And for those who enjoy vocals, there aren't a ton of them here.
With those potential issues considered, I nonetheless think that this is a great album, especially for anyone into funeral doom, or interested in what this subgenre has to offer. A beautiful metal record? Yes, I definitely consider this to be one.
I guess when you're onto a good thing, you may as well stick with it even after an album trilogy which was Ea's original raison d'etre. This self-titled one-track album may signal a new beginning or change of direction for the mystery Russian band inspired by sacred texts of ancient civilisations written in languages long forgotten and undeciphered. A very brief and delicate piano melody is our entry point into the grand universe of Ea's ambitions and music: chiming guitars, some with vibrato effects, bombastic percussion and keyboards that lend a rich and warm ambient halo around the gloomy procession. Listeners may well feel they're witnesses to a grand funeral cortege that never ends. Vocals are deep and near-indecipherable beneath the layers of sound (though they're not thick layers) and there is some death metal influence in the drumming.
These guys have learned something from their last three full-length outings: there is more emotion in this offering and the music does build up in intensity, slowly yet surely, with passages where the instruments pause and there is only the afterglow of a heavenly choral ambience bathing listeners in a warm light. At about the 17th minute the musicians include a field recording of water being swirled about which is an interesting if probably pointless touch since the music resumes its onward and upward climb with no change. Spacey quicksilver liquid effects appear a little later.
Just past the halfway point and black metal elements enter with harsh sandpaper vocals, a faster synth drumming pattern and a definite guitar melody leading the way. Clean female vocals, smooth and soothing, enter the picture. Lead guitar dominates from this point on and while it provides a necessary focus, it's bland in sound and quite boring in delivery as the track progresses. At various points along the way, the deep gruff vocal declaims lyrics while guitars sorrowfully circle them, going slightly off-key at regular intervals, as if to launch into a different, perhaps more ominous direction.
Save for a brief pause about the 39th minute when the music died down to trickling water, the track proceeds relentlessly in its own strange, somewhat delirious style towards the end. The music barely changes pace but chugs steadily along, not building up very much intensity as if sensing its time is nearly over.
It's solid if not particularly imaginative music and especially in its second half, the track does bog down and lets the lead guitar fiddle aimlessly. Parts of the track could have been edited to tighten up the music and give the impression of ever-increasing tension, even a bit of urgency here and there. At least the musicians did well to try to vary the music throughout by introducing some death metal, black metal, electroacoustic and traditional Christian religious musical elements but these never last long, nor do they interact much so tensions that might arise from their fusion and help to sustain the track are missed. I do get the feeling that at times the musicians were so awed by their creation that they lost control of it in parts and let the music run away under its own massive weight; there's a self-indulgent and pretentious element in the whole mammoth missive that in future years might colour the track as a huge piece of atmospheric funeral doom kitsch.
What to say about this full-length album which is incidentally only one song? Completely breathtaking. It is hard to explain it with words, because words lack the actual feeling you get from this anthem of anger and despair. You submerge yourself into a dormant state and take in every note and ethereal grunt that this band has to offer. It rapes you, but in a good way, and you're happy to let it happen.
From the moment it begins with the piano until when the first moan of the guitar kicks in, you know you're in for a sad, but beautiful ride. The song sucks you into its sea of mourning while the guitars express an attitude of death and despair right in your ears.
The keyboard adds to the mood, quietly in the background taking you in, then after awhile the double bass starts and becomes a bit more aggressive, then the grunts come and win you over.
Then, an intermission starts with nothing but piano and ambiance. After a few minutes of that, the despair kicks back in.
Around minute 24, the hateful, but sad black metal shrieks kick in accompanied by double bass and mournful guitars. Afterwards they even bring in female vocals briefly and it is a nice touch. I personally love female vocals in doom bands. Pretty much the process is repeated throughout the entire song, but so far apart that you can't recall any of it. There is even a sound effect at one point, footsteps walking through damp earth. It feels as if you're stuck on an island and you scream at the top of your lungs for someone to come help, but they never do. The ocean keeps you back from everything and little by little your hope fades away.
This is a solid release and I fell in love with it. It is also interesting that the band sings in a dead language and is based on sacral scriptures from ancient civilizations. These guys really know how to set the mood.
Thank you, Ea, for this masterpiece.
The fourth album from this mysterious band appeared as an unexpected postscript to the previously released trilogy. This new untitled work represented by a single monolith track has no musical and ideological connections to the trilogy. However, it presents further progress of Ea's ideas.
The fourth album from the band has a very apocalyptic start with low-tuned piano passages backed up by a very haunting noise in the background. It really gives you the impression of a corroded world, a grey and empty landscape. The funeral part is not far away, starting right away after the “intro” is over with low-tuned and monotonous guitar riffs, hypnotizing drums, and very atmospheric keyboards.
The album grows in intensity and after 6 minutes the keyboards transform into a somewhat apocalyptic chorus, foretelling the disaster that will follow. Low growled vocals followed by destroying drums…all is over, nothing remains, and the keyboards take the form of a cathedral sound accompanied by a choir, a choir that seems to confirm that everything has passed away, amplifying the sensation created.
This moment can be interpreted as a transition to a second part of the song (minute 9-10) as the pace is constant in a funeral doom way with a choir atmosphere, low growled vocals, and some catchy guitar solos. This is a full process of recovery when the world starts to catch live, a moment of contemplation that can be heard from minute 16.
This constant struggle, this battle from the start, is far from over as everything is goes in a circle. The next moment of intensity starts at the 24th minute where there’s a constant growth in pace and the vocals are more similar to black metal rather than doom, and all of these details are accompanied by some fast drumming and sorrowful guitar solos. After this, there is the silence again…though this time it seems that the result is quite different. Something has changed. There is no more recovery as you have the impression that everything is just taking another form and all of the surrounding places are transforming into a cold, gloomy, and haunting funeral atmosphere.
Perhaps everyone will imagine their own world when listening to Ea, therefore I believe that any review of a very atmospheric and funeral doomy song that is about 47 minutes can be resumed only in your own imagination and association between sound and images. So if you want to create your own world, you need to listen to this album. The album is unique, as Ea used us with its very atmospheric progression of their ideas.
This review was originally written for Hymnes Funeraires webzine: