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The debut of Colorado prog doomers Earth Burnt Black isn't groundbreaking by any means, but it is a well-packaged and articulate myriad of ideas that hits the nerve more often than not.
The massive and soaring clean vocal-led portions of this epic slab of doom are set off by grisly toilet grunts and the odd black metal rasp. Big phat riffs on 'The March', with the lead and bass playing off against one another compellingly, are set off by extremely low growls and phlegmatic rasps that had me gnashing my teeth at the obvious talent of vocalist Patrick Wickman. 'Adornment' mixes brutish bashing and slavering harsh vocals with fizzing, harmonized guitar riffs - sounds catchy, heavy, dark and aggressive, but with the right amount of light flashing through the slats on the roof. 'Freedom of the Wretched' features a rocking, gleaming proggy riff at its heart. Not to mention a skittish bass solo. Instrumentally these guys are tight, and there are loads of ideas being thrown into the concept.
It all trundles along like a proggy album. Tracks meld almost seamlessly into one another, central musical motifs are returned to in different instrumental incarnations, and the myriad vocalisation techniques make for an operetta feel. At times it's beautiful (the opening of the Isis-like 'Lead or Cyanide') and at others wrathful (the mid-section and end of 'Freedom of the Wretched' in particular). These tracks are often by their nature long, and although the chopping and changing between vocal styles and gradients of viciousness helps keep things fresh, there is occasionally the whiff of a directionless section or a mismatched tune here and there. A little bit too fat on the longer tracks, and not quite the searing emotional manifestations that might form the carapace of an ideal doom album.
This is a solid outfit, I must say. Coming off like a cross between Isole and Monkeypriest, with a few smears of Opeth to round our their eclectic sound, Earth Burnt Black have something to tempt many an explorative doom head. It just doesn't make your balls fly off, and while I found plenty to enjoy on repeated listens, it doesn't beckon irresistibly to be spun again.
(originally posted at http://www.doom-metal.com/)
Alright, people. Let me start by saying that regrettably as you listen more and more to a genre, you get jaded. Effectively, I didn’t know what to expect about this album but I knew this would be a far cry from any old-fashioned doom metal release and yes, by happy chance it’s peculiar. Earth Burnt Black's Harrowing Catharsis is like a surprise knockout blow straight to the face. The concept debut album of this American quartet is a propulsive, appealing and often alluring ultra-heavy rock record. Earth Burnt Black blends their distinct influences into an undeniably progressive metal sound. Make no mistake, anyone remotely knowledgeable about the definition of traditional progressive metal will certainly notice that Harrowing Catharsis is far from being an archetypal album. If I had to compare it to any other band, it would have to be Opeth experimenting with doom metal, but still it's quite different. For those unacquainted with Earth Burnt Black's unmistakably unique sound, they genuinely mix heavily distorted low-tuned guitars with the experimental and complex compositions of progressive rock topping that with a hint of death metal in conjunction with various voice types. Consistently they range from clean melodic and haunting vocals with a sense of despair to deep growls and guttural roars. As a consequence you have an absorbing amalgam conspicuously characterized as extreme progressive doom metal. And with that said, I will give a simple description of Harrowing Catharsis getting past all of the silly labelling.
As with most doom-influenced progressive bands, this album is generally quite dark, gloomy and mesmerizing. Basically, one can easily compare it to Opeth but the music is slower and at times more aggressive. Actually, when I started listening to the record, I was immediately reminded of some of the more progressive moments on Opeth’s Ghost Reveries.
I usually find intro songs kind of pointless, but I’m willing to grant an exception to the eerie and compelling introduction track here. After this haunting doomy piece of art, Earth Burnt Black throws the listener into a sea of crushing doom riffs endlessly followed by crushing doom riffs mixed with soaring vocals. As a matter of fact, they shifts between some of the most balm clean singing ever heard and the most bully death metal growls. Assuredly this is one of the most important positive aspects of Harrowing Catharsis. The thrilling drumming also deserves a mention here. I should admit that I’m not usually one to notice drums as much as guitars but on this album they are definitely performed rather well. The bass sound is also heavy and generally good, which is interesting, since a bunch of metal albums have inaudible bass sounds. In my point of view, bass and drums do a tremendous job supporting the guitars.
In terms of the lyrics on this record, they’re sorrowful and enjoyable. Throughout the album, one cannot help but notice that they fit very well with the music and unquestionably accomplish what they set out to do.
I'd have to say that overall, the record has a very smooth feel. Indubitably all tracks are impressively delightful and each song stands strong on its own. The songs might sometimes be a bit too long and maybe a solo here and there wouldn't harm. If you like the experimentation between progressive, doom and death metal sort of sounds then this album was made for you. Personally, I would advice this record to any open-minded metal fan and extreme music lover.
Highlights: Intro, The March, Freedom of the Wretched, The Hunt