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This music comes to me like a sweet darkened healing balm to my ears, a bliss-filled smothering in the heavy air of civilization's demise, and a long journey for my mind to take through the collapse of ruined centuries - a dream landscape littered with eidolons of the night, vast crumbling edifices swathed in the fading light of forgotten sunsets, and gloom-drowned subterranean worlds where the music of lost souls is eternally played by avatars of Orpheus - the true Lethe of Evoken. One of the reasons this band moves me to feel such a great deal of sympathy (or empathy) with their music is the ease with which their music lends itself to personal imagery: their choice of a name is very telling, and also very complementary - Evoken's music seems, to me, to be mainly a vehicle for the summoning of emotions, images, and atmospheres; and they create, through these suggestions, entire new worlds for the listener to explore - realms that are ironically always familiar, because their construction and determination are based on your own personal reactions or reflections when faced with the music. This is possible because of that double-edged irony of abstraction (the bane of serious artists, but also their greatest gift) in music: while composing lilting melodies that are uniquely evocative for their own lives and experiences, the members of Evoken have created something that transcends the mere actual and personal: they have have called into being music that is also remarkably evocative for each listener, on his or her own - are they communicating, then? Or just building a structure to be filled in by the listener? Is there a difference? The best music is always directly related to the listener, in its power of evocation - Mozart, for example, can be listened to with enjoyment and emotional involvement by almost everyone, but how many of those who find beauty in his music can explain to you exactly why, and how? The way in which the music touches the listener is always different - it summons up contrasting images, memories, or feelings in each person who hears it. Music is an abstraction, and thus impossible to categorize, rigidly define, or set within certain limits - it exists only in the space between the composer and listener, in the web of emotions displayed and understood (or misunderstood), and in the process of feelings transcribed, translated, and interpreted. The best musicians, I think, are those who are able to communicate a large body of felt experience through intensely personal abstractions - their rigidly individual language of the emotions is made universal through music. This is another mystery of music - the closer artists get to expressing their deepest personal levels of meaning, the more powerful their powers of universality grow. The deeper a man penetrates into his own unconsciousness and its powers of reflection, the closer he gets to the hands that steer us all.
But what does all this have to do with Evoken? I think it explains, in part, the hallucinatory power this music holds. Much like the other bands that hover around the genre of doom death (a subspecies of metal that thankfully has not become a trend and hasn't been defined through repetition) - entities like Skepticism, Thergothon, Morgion (to a lesser extent), and most importantly, Disembowelment - Evoken are not just distinctly defined by what they bring to their compositions, but often by what they leave out. I think doom death is the closest any form of metal music has ever come to achieving the creation of silence - that incredibly seductive tension between death and renewal, pleasure and pain, thesis and antithesis, positive and negative. Silence is the catching of the breath when the consciousness becomes aware of the passage of time - the true tone of the universe, endlessly circling, eternally dissolving. The well of souls that opens up with the first few notes of the second song on this album, 'Tragedy Eternal', for example, is particularly illustrative: Evoken do not paint a picture in detail, leaving nothing to the imagination - rather they slowly and reverently sketch in the faintest outlines, leaving a dark abyss in the middle - the 'emptiness' in the title of this record (is it any wonder the back of the tray card has a Dore picture of Dante staring down, lost in thought?), the cistern which hides our fates. That domain of shadows, the void, echoing to all the melodies they offer, is the true lure, impetus, and result of this music. You can hear the dark exhalations of this infernal chasm of the unconscious most powerfully in the first two minutes of the sixth track, 'To Sleep Eternally', where the miasma of death, forgotten love, and regret is absolutely suffocating. But around this bottomless abyss of silence Evoken erect, again and again, monuments to humanity's fall from grace - monuments that call you to color them with your own memories. Intensely architectural in scope and intent, the music can be seen as a demonstration of the powers of life and death: one section of a song builds and nurtures life, level upon level, while later another slowly degrades, smoothing the drifting descent into mute lifelessness. Usually starting on a few notes strummed without energy, purpose, or recognizable meaning, the songs patiently coagulate, constructing different strata of sound, melody, and rhythm. The vocals are sparse and almost tuneless - they sound like a raging river, or the moaning of an earthquake. This music is like a primeval (primal) experience of nature's beauty, stretched by reminiscence through labored years filled with a strangling melancholy - the blooming of a rare black lotus presented through time-lapse photography, and later, inevitably, the depiction of its eventual death and dissolution. Unfolding staggeringly slow, 'Tragedy Eternal' can be compared to an ancient temple, where lightless streams running far underground send up vibrations and musical tones through the dark earth. 'Curse the Sunrise', the last song on this record, is the musical equivalent of the sands of time erasing the remains of ruins left forgotten in a trackless desert: the howling of the wind, the movement of the planets, the cold glint of the stars in a moonless sky - music to summon the times before man, or the ages after his downfall.
Evoken is not only one of the most important bands in the doom genre right now, they are poised, with their next release, to make a musical statement that I think will be (at the very least) enormously influential. They are the true heirs of Disembowelment, dedicated to their own sound now and to a uniquely original vision, and I sincerely wish them the best. If this album is a true indication of the depth of their power, I don't think they will fail to impress me at any time in the future. I very enthusiastically recommend this album to all of you who are searching for something much more resonant than the commonplace bands you are usually offered.
(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)
Evoken are another essential funeral doom metal band that I needed to review, but damn! I've listened to their second and third albums before my big FDM epiphany with Funeral's Tristesse. I thought the first, Quietus, was quite fine and that the other, Anithesis of Light, was pretty phenomenal. After my FDM epiphany, I've given Evoken's debut, Embrace the Emptiness a listen and ended up being immensely impressed.
First, there's an intro track that portrays what can be found on the rest of the album: light sounding guitar played with the regular funeral doom followed by a section of quiet, dark ambient on the second half of the intro. I'm feeling two vibes here. It sounds mournful like most traditional funeral doom, but it also sounds deep and void-like like Esoteric take on the genre. I think Evoken found the sweet spot between the two and made something great out of it.
Then, "Tragedy Eternal" kicks in. The drumming gets quite quick with the kick drums being given a good exercise, but this isn't entirely uncommon in the funeral doom genre. There are still those slow moments of plodding funeral doom.
Lead guitars exist and do break into solos at least once per song. Production wise, the guitars sound the rawest of all the instruments, but it's barely noticeable when layered with the keyboards and drums which are well produced. The clean sounding soft guitar is one of the key players here and fits in well at any part of the album, be it melancholic pieces like "Tragedy Eternal" or more menacing ones like "Chime the Centuries End", though there is much more of the latter than the former (which I consider a good thing). The keyboards also do their part to augment the atmosphere with the presentation on "Chime the Centuries End" making me feel like I'm staring downward into an abyss. It all feels so dark and empty, hence 'Embrace the Emptiness'.
I feel like Evoken issued forth the modern wave of funeral doom with the cleaner sound. Though they were a little late bringing out their debut full-length in 1998 when Skepticism and Esoteric already belted out two albums each, Evoken's Embrace the Emptiness is still very inspirational. I can see a lot of their style in acts like Ataraxie, Ahab, and others.
Now, I'm not about to proclaim myself a funeral doom expert. I enjoy the genre, but it is one I enjoy in small doses and limit myself to a few bands (the greats of course). Fortunately enough, Evoken have found a place in the funeral doom I enjoy and as a casual fan of the genre I think that says something about the quality of the music Evoken play.
Okay, okay, so they're not full-on funeral doom, they have quite a bit of death metal influence in their sound too. Embrace the Emptiness is the band's debut album seeing a re-release on Elegy Records this year. With the exception of an intro, we have six tracks here, none of which is shorter than 9 minutes. Each and every track is a crushing display, with excellent dynamics, a great ear for melody, and great clarity of each instrument. I found the best way to listen to this is was to turn the lights off, lie down in bed and listen to this on my headphones. I found myself picking out the most subtle elements of the sound and falling in love with them, this may be slow but there isn't one wasted note throughout the album's 70 minutes.
I mean, come on, with song titles such as "Chime the Centuries End" this had to be awesome. This is the kind of album you look to for a musical journey, and this journey just happens to crush your soul in the process. Fans of acts such as Esoteric, Thergothon, Pantheist or even Disembowelment should get this right now if they haven't already. Recommended.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
I’m gonna be honest here and say that I hadn’t heard Embrace the emptiness before, and the only thing I had heard of Evoken was the Antithesis of light from 2005. This is a re-release of Embrace the emptiness, originally released back in 1998, and since I hadn’t heard it before I’m extremely glad Solitude Productions decided to re-release it.
The heavy and slow riffing is drenched in a gloomy, murky aura, that grabs hold of your innards, twists it and evokes a feeling of desperation, angst and despair. Extremely beautiful and melodic, without losing brutality and ferocity. There are moments reminiscing of a classic doom metal sound, although the death reeking funeral vibe is what overwhelms you with emotions. Combining that ultra heavy riffing with the rhythmic drumming easily sends you into a catatonic state, with wickedly beautiful and masterful drum-work. Adding yet another aspect of saddened atmosphere via the keyboard just enhances all previously said emotions. The vocals vary from clean to slow, harsh, deep growls, also masterfully done. There’s not an aspect of this album that isn’t just top notch.
Put on Embrace the emptiness, shade your windows, turn off the light, lie down in bed and let yourself get overwhelmed with emotions. Drift away in your mind and just let the feelings of solitude hit you. An utterly dark album that every fan of funeral doom/death metal should own.
Originally written for www.mylastchapter.net