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There are certain things that appeal to me in music, little things like an adventurous bassist that isn't too 'in your face' with all that slappy shit, or a slight accent to the vocals that adds an endearing character without rendering the lyrics indecipherable. There's also a variety of substantial properties I seek out regarding my tastes, and with my interest in progressive rock on an incline as well as my ongoing appreciation for witchy women and dark melodies, Evenoire's Vitriol almost feel like it was tailor-made for my musical interests. It covers plenty of facets that I gravitate towards, and is easily one of my personal favorite releases of the year by its sheer boldness and sense of adventure while not straying too far from its gothic metal base.
One quality I look for is a production that matches the desired mood and tone of the music, and the people behind the mixing board of this release definitely knew what the fuck they were doing. The guitars have a sleek, sharp tone, the drums are up front but not overwhelmingly so, and the vocals lie somewhere in the middle with just enough reverb to provide a haunting atmosphere while remaining audible. Keyboards are present as a minor dressing, but not really as much of a defining characteristic to the band's sound as much as the more organic inclusion of flute playing by the singer within numerous tracks, pushed a bit higher in the mix. The overall sound of this effort sets the mood just right in balancing the band's varied influences and tempos. An excellent production may not save poorly written music, but it capably enhances and adds an important overlay to conjure up the right impressions and emotions relevant to the music, akin to the difference between a cheap soft foam anime body pillow and a finely stitched, high thread count and goose down stuffed version. The cheap one could make you itchy or possibly become the recipient of a rash, but an expensive and fastidiously designed one could have you spending time enthusiastically rolling around on the floor with it even amongst the presence of your wife and kids, hypothetically speaking.
As for the body pillow of work itself, Evenoire have designed themselves one hell of a spritely and enticing creation worth embracing for numerous reasons. There's the compositions themselves, in which a progressive streak runs through the entire album. Not a single number here seems constituted as a means of reaching for a latent commercial-minded crowd looking for simple hooks, repetitive patterns and lyrics about having one's heart broken. It's not that I don't enjoy well written pop rock, but it is refreshing to hear a band within this particular approachable metal genre eschew mainstream traits for their vision. Toying with time signatures and lengthy constructions that don't follow strict verse-chorus guidelines abound, with mellifluous sections seguing into heavier bombast and back again frequently but with smooth transitions that flow naturally. The music itself possesses captivating chord patterns embellished with a few atmospheric guitar soloing and numerous flute harmonies. The melodies are memorable, generally gothic and a bit doom-ish in tone with some forays into olden-day folk territory, particularly on tracks such as "Minstrel of Dolomites", which really harkens back to the days of renaissance hoedowns while retaining aspects of simmering gloom, keeping the temperament of the album steady without sudden jarring shifts in tone. As for their progressive tendencies, the songs never become too complex and there’s no display of virtuosic instrumental wailing, but the band has talent, and their bassist deserves special attention for being one of the busier and more up-front players I've heard in some time regarding metal of this ilk.
As with most gothic metal, the vocals tend to play a major factor in establishing a band's sound, and in this case Elisa's presence evokes a tone more reminiscent of Anneke van Giersbergen's early days than a poppish or strictly operatic mimicking delivery. What I really dig about her is that she really alternates her style well, giving added dimensions to the songs such as her strong forceful timbre in "Alchimia" and an ethereal flair within the short ballad "The Prayer". Her flute skills aren't going to wobble the knees of Ian Anderson fanatics, but an added instrument that's actually used often enough to become a characteristic of the band's identity is always welcome.
With such a commendable selection of tracks, selecting a favorite is pretty daunting for me since I tend to discover something new within a particular tune after each listen, but "Misleading Paradise" truly showcases practically all of the attributes that make Evenoire one of the best gothic metal bands out there these days, with nods to folk and progressive rock while maintaining a style that clearly advocates atmosphere over accessibility. "Alchimia" is another I turn to often when in the need for some Vitriol, brandishing a captivating gothic flair during the verses that never veers towards anything remotely gaudy.
If I have any minor scruples at all, it would be that tracks two through four have certain similarities in that they feel like continuations of each other, but since the music is of such engaging quality it doesn't really bother me. I practically treat it as a larger epic in three parts. Elisa's a fantastic vocalist, but her occasional diversions into falsetto operatic stuff, while well done, aren't really what I look for since her mid-ranged high priestess ululations are where it's at. We're talking about some truly minor quibbles though for an album that surprised the living shit out of me since I was expecting some typical spaghetti goth pop metal thing. It's bands like this that make it more than worthwhile for me to journey through the slag of similar looking acts fronted by women to discover the gems lurking amidst the rubble. Like the streaks on the singer's hair, this album is more like a blue sapphire than a dolomite. I hope they stick around for a long time.