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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.