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You can read in certain ancient authors about the phenomenon of black snow, a plague of the elements that natural philosophers attributed to wars in the heavens, curses of deities, or the wrath of Mother Nature. This bizarre and rare occurrence is, of course, actually caused by the mixture of freezing precipitation with gray ash and soot that has been blasted into the atmosphere by an erupting volcano - but think how frightening it must be, even now, to witness such an event: the skies bleeding black, black waves of ice spilling into the streets, burying houses, villages, towns, the surrounding countryside; the ground mirroring the black in the atmosphere, the darkness of the low clouds, the benighted mists and fogs that rise from the frozen earth, the inability of the sun to pierce these gloomy shades, etc. I don't think it would be that difficult to understand the ancients and their religious denunciations in such a case... as a thing like this seem completely unnatural, an abomination, abhorrent, repellant to our fragile senses, even while it is only a mixture of two otherwise perfectly 'natural' elements: ash and snow.
When I listen to Evoken these days, in any context, I almost invariably summon up images of black snow - or avalanches, earthquakes, and other 'natural' phenomena. One listen to this new album should make the 'why' of this very clear: for Evoken have transcended the notion of a 'unit' of musicians just playing for pure pleasure, or for their audience's entertainment, if they were ever concerned with that. No, this is art of the highest order, and much as on the last album, the epic downward spiral of 'Embrace the Emptiness', they have gone far beyond the original motivations or goals of 'metal' bands into completely new territory. This album is as much a doorway or gate into a new land, inviting a journey across a blighted landscape, as their last work was. I can't help but think this way when I listen to this band: that their albums represent, at least to me, wormholes or portals into completely different times and spaces - the 'world of Evoken', if you will - a space, locale, or 'feel' that they are experts at summoning with their uniquely atmospheric abilities. If one wanted to be honest, though, this band has progressed, although it couldn't be called a 'change' in terms of style or approach - no, they have just simply become better at what they do, and more successful in doing it. As they go along they get stronger, and their abilities become wider, more powerful, more cataclysmic. Moving ever onwards, they drill down deeper and deeper into a world they discovered on their first release. The universe that 'Embrace..' opened up is now represented fully here in the space of one song - the first perhaps. And then Evoken sets their sights on South, you could say, going down, down, down, into the heart of the Abyss, dredging up some of the darkest atmospheres you will probably ever hear from any doom band. I sincerely doubt any other group has come even close to creating the massive, swelling, grandiose passages that this dreaded collective seems to cause to come into being with a simple wave of their hands.
The rhythm guitar sound is even heavier here than on the last album, and I hope Nick has finally got a production he can live with: his guitar sounds like a blinding avalanche of ice, a crushing outpouring of The Unlight, a frozen lake at midnight creaking and cracking under the strain of its own implacable weight. He uses this sound to expertly place a massive series of slabs, girders, weight-bearing structures or foundations of dusty cement beneath the ethereal whispers and ghostly wanderings of the other guitars, guiding with a gauntleted hand the progression of the songs. The keyboard work is excellent as always, building up elegant, impressive layers of elemental tones and swirling, swelling soundscapes behind or (at certain times) in front of the guitars, and Dario has tastefully created some melodies, additions, and asides here that open up whole new realms on their own. More than that, the keyboards are used in a different way on this album - they have become a necessary part of the atmosphere Evoken creates, and now occupy a central position in the slow building and tearing down of sound-worlds.
This is a monstrosity of a record, a dark monument, a night eidolon (to use Poe's term) of colossal proportions, and it is sitting here in my tape deck asking me to come to terms with it. I don't know if I can. I am eagerly awaiting the wide release of this beast.
A funeral doom band from the land of hair gel and wifebeaters? Actually, New Jersey is way more evil than you might think. Thanks to the Weird NJ crew all sorts of wackiness has been documented about the state with the second highest per capita income in the whole Union (right behind Maryland, a place we all know to be full of fuckbags). I’ve gone out on several Weird NJ excursions and seen abandoned mental asylums, haunted graveyards, and the like. Entertainment deluxe.
Speaking of entertainment, Evoken’s second album “Quietus” dishes it out like an all-you-can-die buffet. But if you’ve having a party I wouldn’t throw this disc on - it may turn your Animal House into Jonestown Pt. II. Or a dark, decaying structure which once housed the insane and is now home to nothing but a quiet, creeping dread. Unlike most death/doom, there’s no sense of a romantic adventure on the backs of beautiful swans playing zithers. Evoken focuses far more on the *death* side of things, and are determined to run the listener right into the dirt.
From the punishing, cello-possessed beauty of “In pestilence burning” to the last soothing strains of “Atrementous journey” you’ll be transported into a world where pain and sadness rule the day. Evoken crushes their doomy peers with better production, perfect dabs of double bass, great use of both high and low growls, and songwriting skills that give tracks over ten minutes a frightening coherence.
What more can I say here? This is one of those releases that feels arcane, occult, mysterious. The lyrics aren’t about blood and guts makin’ muthafuckas nuts – they are cryptic. The cover art is open to interpretation. Listening to this alone at night may cause goosebumps, looks over your shoulder, and occasional sharting. Quite a feat for some dudes from the dirty Jerz. It was even recorded in Staten Island, a whole fucking borough of concentrated douchebagism that New Jersey might as well just claim as their own. They all vote Republican anyway, so no big loss.
So if you like your death metal on buckets of Quaaludes and LSD with atmosphere to spare, you’d be a fool to let this one pass you by. I rarely do this, but within their subgenre Evoken have achieved perfection.
10 moldering asylums out of 10.
Originally posted at: www.globaldomination.se
Doom, primarily death doom and funeral doom, can be a restrictive genre to work with. The recent explosion of one-man, "bedroom" bands operating through Myspace and Facebook ala all those shitty black metal bands, along with most bands inability to write songs that aren't so monotonous and repetitive that they make you fall asleep (I'm looking at you, Stijn Van Cauter - if only all your bands were as good as UDOM...) results in sometimes really having to dig deep to find the good stuff.
After 1998's Embrace the Emptiness, Evoken returned in 2001 with their sophomore effort Quietus. This album manages to make it's predecessor sound almost tame; as great as Embrace was, it was really only a prelude to this. To begin with, the tempo has been slowed down considerably, giving a more sorrowful, funeral doom feel, as opposed to Embrace, which was primarily a death doom effort.
One of the first things that may strike you is that Evoken are really terrific songwriters. To be honest, even though this is strict death/funeral doom, Evoken don't really sound like Thergothon or Skepticism or Tyranny or Ahab (all great bands) and manage to acquire a sound all of their own. One of the problems with this kind of music is that most of the bands adhere so strictly to the genre's conventions that eventually it all becomes very samey and monotonous. Not so with Evoken; every song here possesses a unique atmosphere and feel and has a very definite feeling of going somewhere, of having direction. The only exception are the last two songs, which, although still good, tend to meander a little.
There is such an extraordinary feeling of hate and sorrow present here that I was really quite taken aback the first time I heard the album, perhaps best exemplified by, appropriately enough, Tending the Dire Hatred and the title track, the former with an absolutely thick, dense, tar-black atmosphere of hate, and the latter, whose lyrics and sparingly used clean vocals really give the impression of mourning at a funeral.
The production has been improved from the previous album, to the benefit of the music - THIS is how doom should sound. Crystal clear, and also there is a lot of echo/reverb, giving an effect of being recorded in a dark, desolate cavern. It really feels like you are being slowly crushed by the sheer weight of it. However, the volume is slightly low, so you'll have to turn up your speakers a little to get the full effect.
John Paradiso's vocals are great; his growls are amazingly deep, although surprisingly articulate. He also uses some agonizing screams that most black metal bands only wish they could possess. His cleans are great too (although they aren't really singing in the traditional sense, more of a spoken chant) and thankfully, they aren't overused.
This being doom, the guitars do nothing too showy or technical, but this album doesn't need it. They sound absolutely crushing - this is the only work I can use to describe them. The drums are played really well; Vince Verkay is indeed an underrated drummer in the doom genre. He uses fills and double bass work which is comparatively rare in funeral doom, and this helps to give the album it's varied feel. The bass isn't really special - it's there and does what needs to be done.
Evoken succeeded this album with Antithesis of Light and A Caress of the Void, in 2005 and 2007, respectively. They are both great albums, but they can't match this. If you call yourself a fan of doom and don't own this album, you have my pity. If you call yourself a fan of doom and don't like this album, well... I question your taste.
This album is the most utterly dark and brutal thing I have ever heard... ever. When I first was shown Evoken by one of my friends, I could hardly get into it because it was slower than I was used to... much slower. Then again, it's Funeral Death Metal. Eventually, I was able to sit down and give it many listens on end... took several hours. This is what I have to say:
Wow... this was nothing short of one of the greatest albums I have ever heard, and probably ever will hear. It's just so dark and brutal. Normally, I don't dream. Normally, I feel like I'm in a void when I sleep. However, on the night I gave this album its first listen, I was utterly plagued with nightmares and could not sleep. This came as a shock as most music can't usually invoke such emotion within me... this did it. Just... the hollow feel to it... like it was recorded in some sort of Hell on this Earth. It seemed to be wrenching my life from my grasp with every passing second.
From the first hate and sorrow drenched second of "In Pestilence, Burning" all the way through the very last soul destroying moment of "Atrementous Journey" I felt like everything I had known as dark before seemed to be covered in light. Nothing can compare to the utter hatred and sorrow invoked by this album's songs. The production quality is one of the most important parts of this album. Everything sounds hollow and foggy and atmospheric.
This album is by far the most personal album I've ever heard, in that it changed my very thought process. I can't think without covering the thought in darkness. It's definitely worth the time you put into listening to it.
Evoken are the type of band that sometimes you think that is so dark, evil and black that it may bring you bad luck just for listening to their albums. Curiously my mom died a few days after I listened to "Quietus" for the first time. That happened three months ago and right before the sad event I had this very feeling in mind. "Man... this is so evil.. so black that it must attract bad things". Sadly curious indeed.
I am used to Doom Metal and Death Metal. I listen to a lot of evil things. I mean... really evil. Or I thought so until I discovered Evoken.
Following the tradition of all Evoken releases the album is drenched in a sad, foggy, and funereal atmosphere. The songs are long, very rich in details and extremely slow paced. The melodies are sad, dissonant and very romantic. Almost like Byron's poetry declaimed by instruments in very low tones. The vocals are very emotive, mostly guttural but sometimes clear and sad. The guitars are highly distorted and heavy but the excellent production assures everything is perfectly comprehensible.
The keyboards play a major role in adding atmosphere and space to the sound. They are in the exact measure and played with very good taste. There are no inappropriate notes and everything appears when supposed to.
Even though the tempo is quite regular and slow, the sound is overall constructed with great creativity and carefully detailed, making Evoken (in my humble opinion) far superior than Thergothon, for instance, in that specific issue.
This is desperation taken to the next level. I think it transcends Doom Metal. It is something new, something worse.
I simply cannot just put in words how amplified were these feelings after my mother's death.
This album is like travelling through the netherworld. It is a glimpse of the afterlife made sound. If you are into darkness and Doom Metal and want to know what lies beyond buy this album.
This is an ode to death. The ultimate release from life through music.
Try listening to this album right after your mother's demise. You will feel like walking beside her through the paths of the dead. Crossing the gates of this world into the next.
Just make sure that there are no windows nearby.
There is a feeling that very few albums give. The feeling when you first pop the CD into your player, the first few seconds of music trickle out of your speakers, you sit back and say ‘I’m in for something special’. That was my very feeling when the first piano strains of this album began playing from my speakers. A massive wall of guitars began to flood my sound system for the next 65+ minutes. Evoken are a band that anyone who knows anything about doom metal need no introduction to.
For the uninitiated they hail from the miserable urban swamps of New Jersey, not where you’d normally expect to find a doom band but Evoken are far from normal.
I must give kudos to the producer (I’ve forgotten his name) who has managed to translate much of Evoken’s heavy sound onto disc without it sounding muddy or overly distorted. Every chord and note is clearly heard and to be distinguished. Every word, be it growl, scream, spoken or whispered is clearly heard as well. I cannot emphasize enough that the guitar tone on this album is massive. The phrase Wall of sound should have Quietus as its defintion. If you listen to this album loud enough, it almost feels like an anvil (to use a bad pun) has been suddenly dropped onto your chest. As a guitarist myself I’m in love with reverb and there is tons of it on this album! Another commendable aspect of this album is the use of the cello. Instead of using it as most bands would be satisfied using (as a lead instrument full of these self-pitying melodies) Evoken use it to complement their slothful metal assault, as best witnessed in the opening track In Pestilence Burning. Evoken’s forte, to me, has always been atmosphere over melancholy, the reverse of a band like MDB. They achieve an atmosphere on many of these songs (Tending the Dire Hatred, Where Ghosts Fall Silent, Embrace the Emptiness) that most Black Metal bands try vainly to achieve and would make their corpsepaint turn green in envy. In the right mood, or stoned, Evoken can take you on a mystical journey through mist filled forests lit by moonlight where the sorrows of a thousand souls have been laid before you.
Fans of this disc will appreciate this bands other releases. All are much in the same style, though without the benefit of the lovely production. Fans of other American doom bands such as Morgion, November’s Doom and Mindrot may find much to enjoy in this New Jersey act. LET THERE BE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOM