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What the hell happened? - 40%

Zodijackyl, June 24th, 2013

Ebony Tears began as an elegant yet unformed band blending violins and guitar melodies with Swedish death metal, quickly evolved to playing aggressive, thrashy melodeath with a mystical atmosphere. Another two years later, they're playing some of the blandest thrash/groove death metal I've heard. Perhaps this is to be expected of some band that nobody has heard of from Sweden circa 2000, but it's surprising that the band dropped everything they did well in two years after a brilliant album to create incredibly boring and sterile groove/thrash metal with little death metal left. The death metal is gone, and it's bordering on being a bad type of metalcore, nearly mallcore with all of the completely percussive chugging and shouting.

This album is a mix of a tamed attempt at brutal thrash mixed with a noisy alignment of chugging guitars and whacking a snare drum that's not mixed right. I've heard the awful mix of Darkest Hour's "Hidden Hands..." described as sounding like the guitars got into a fight with the drums, and that's what this sounds like. The guitars used to have a meaty Swe-death tone, now they sound like plug and play with a Mesa - the chunky but sterile tone of a lot of bands of the early 2000s. The mixing on the snare drum alone practically ruins the record - it normally fits into the music, it's a big punch but you hear other things around it. It's just noisy here and half of the time the treble side of the spectrum is just an awful mess. It sounds like Soilwork without melody - think of the shouting part of "Rejection Role" with that chugging and make that most of an album.

The string skipping Gothenburg riffs are sparse here, and when they do appear, they're completely out of place, completely neutered, and aimless. While their last album seemed perfectly arranged, this one is the opposite. Perhaps they were leaning too far to the crappy thrashing of their side project, Dog Faced Gods, but this is on par with the tiring, monotony of a band like Paganizer, even though Ebony Tears do more than one thing. They aren't differentiating what they're doing, due to both poor songwriting and poor mixing.

It's hard to believe that this is the same vocalist from their previous albums. His Lindberg-inspired scream is completely gone, the entire album a cacophony of monotonous groove metal shouts, sometimes with a bit of an industrial feel due to the mechanical production and narrow range, though there's hardly any industrial here. The vocals actively detract from the music. I have no idea what the hell any of them were thinking on this album - perhaps it's a good indication that two of the few breaks from the groove/thrash whacking are southern/stoner metal melodic swaggering at the middle and end of "Lowdown".

What the hell were they thinking? I don't know, but I'm inclined to say they were looking for a new direction and decided to walk away from making good music. It's no surprise they split up after putting out this clunker.