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First off I want to say that I am very picky about my doom playlist. Especially funeral/death/doom. Evoken has been one of my favorite bands for a while now (for this genre & in general), & I have fully listened to & rated every single album & song of theirs thoroughly over the years by constant play. Now, based on what I've absorbed, I'd say this is obviously their most under-appreciated, under-listened to work & yet easily their "best", and more people seriously need to have a listen! Besides "Antithesis of Light", this is also in my opinion, Evoken's heaviest album & without much flaw, if any at all. It may just be the heaviest, most perfect album I've ever even heard. Although I can give 1 or 2 of their other albums 100%, I would rate this one even higher if I could for creativity alone. Everything about it takes me to the darkest, blackest place in the universe, including the lyrics, which is pretty rare these days. By the time it ends, all I want to do is listen to it again. Over and over, and re-murder the already murdered folks of my imagination. I have had this demo for a little over 3 years and I still haven't found anything that can come close in comparison, besides obviously some of the other Evoken albums, & 2 or 3 Disembowelment songs. Esoteric is a sad comparison that so many love to use. I will never understand where it even comes from. I see no similarities between the 2 bands musically in any way other than the genre attached. Esoteric to me, sounds like it could be Evoken on serious crack & a 2 liter bottle of vodka, at best, also, while aliens are attacking their instruments & dogs are barking uncontrollably in the backround. The comparison just doesn't work. Also, you can hate me for saying it, but I think this demo makes Disembowelment look like their kid brother, (and a lot of other extremely heavy death &/or doom bands for that matter). Even though the influence came as vice-versa. Words can't describe how perfect this album truly is, you really just need to listen to it as loud as you can, while imagining or committing every type of sin you can think of. You will not be disappointed. If you are, I'd think you probably should not be listening to death/doom & shouldn't be rating this album to begin with. I purposely made it a point to make this amazing demo my first MA review!
It is clear but the volume is a bit low, as it is a demo. Put your volume up & enjoy it. Nough' said.
On to the songs:
I am not big on intros, & if you're not either just skip over this, but I'll try to sum it up for those who care. It usually makes me think of a bunch of "grey" aliens eerily & slowly probing a room full of some unwilling folk strapped to beds...in this weird top-secret dimension intertwined with human reality, or possibly a creepy hallway in a videogame, where the undead roam & chase you. It's short & sweet- if you do care about intros- this one works.
The first full track "In Graven Image" is a personal favorite of mine. I think it is one of the most brutal & perfect songs I've heard & like the last song on this album I feel it was created in a way I have seldom heard almost any other band try & attempt. The beginning is full of pounding, just a short tease before the slow crushing pace of growls....which eventually turn into powerful & almost agonizing screams... from the lyrics to the guitars, music & vocals, it is pure perfection with a very "cold" & miserable atmosphere. Death/doom at its finest, especially fun when blasting it so loud the neighbors call the police and report possible murders taking place next door. Pure torture music- pure insanity with many slow interesting breaks. Very uniquely Evoken.
In "Shades of Night Descending" you can start to hear Disembowelment influences more clearly. In a long, descriptive sentence: This song begins with eery whispers/sighs, which then turns into a symphony of funeral doom and "The Tree of Life & Death" style vocals/music with more eery intermissions of beautiful melodies & deep harsh screams. This is also an amazing track, as dark as could be. Only thing I can think of to say negative is the ending may get slightly boring if you hear this song more than once, but it's not boring enough to rate the song any lower. At least in my opinion. Evoken I believe is notorious for their repetitive long endings sometimes on otherwise incredible songs.
Next, "Towers of Frozen Dusk" is another heavily "Disembowelment" influenced track. In my opinion it is probably the most heavily influenced one they have made so far out of every album in terms of overall sound. If you love Disembowelment you will love this track, guaranteed. It is by no means a clone, but the influence is clearrrrly heard. It is as powerful as the other tracks. The only possible flaw is that maybe the middle instrumental part of the track is too long for some people before the brutality kicks in again. I myself enjoy it thoroughly.
The last track on the album, "Into the Autumn Shade" could also possibly be the best on the album, just because it is so uniquely "Evoken's sound". If you love Evoken you will know what I mean by that. It's so hard to describe. It is 9 minutes of growling musical doom/death "singing", to melodic funeral doom, & time itself feels like it's collapsing as you listen. Coming up to 6:33 makes the entire song come together for the finale, nightmarish, almost symphonic- dark, harsh & beautiful but in a doomy way. That all comes to mind. This is one of the most unique songs I've ever heard in metal!
You won't regret listening all the way through.
Doom metal, perhaps the most varied of all the metal genres, has been crossing over with plenty of other genres, and surprisingly often, the crossbreeding has been fertile. While the "funeral" brand of doom metal sounds like something that lacks the genetics to successfully breed with other metal genres, its nihilism works surpringly well when blended with slowed down death metal. Among the masters of that gruesome fusion are UK's Esoteric and Evoken from the United States. It could be argued, with justification, that Esoteric sits on the throne of the currently active bands, but Evoken isn't far behind; the bands were founded around the same time, and their musical output was originally rather similar, at least on a superficial level.
Shades of Night Descending is the first demo of Evoken, released in 1994, and for a debut demo, it is a surprisingly mature creation. The later works of Evoken have a thicker wall of sound and plenty of production tricks in them, but the deviations from the basic formula introduced here have been essentially more polishing that actual rethinking of the format.
Perhaps the music is of the same funeral doom-death variety as found on the later albums, all the way to the excellent Antithesis of Light and A Caress of the Void, but the unrefined production on Shades of Night Descending, with its barren character and almost heavy-handedly echoing soundscape, brings out the nihilism of funeral doom more effectively than the more professional production jobs of the later albums. The atmosphere on the demo is bleaker, even less forgiving, and perhaps even more desperate and repulsive in a positive sense than what can be found on A Caress of the Void. Even the considerably melodic guitar part in "Towers of Frozen Dusk" and other sweeter spots on the demo have a taste of ash and feel of pumice in them; Evoken walks on a musical lava field here, and manages to paint the true meaning of funeral doom in slow death metal colours on the canvas.
The styles of this demo and Esoteric's Epistemological Despondency from the same year are very close to each other, and it might be that the two bands, separated by the Atlantic ocean in the days before MySpace and P2P, stumbled upon the same concept by accident, or more likely, by convergent evolution. While they have since branched off to different directions, the similarity is striking.
In comparison to their later works, this is perhaps the essence of the whole band in the original, pure form. It would be silly to say that some fundamental rule of Evoken's music had changed since then, but for those who wish to have a certain rawness and honesty in what they hear, Shades of Night Descending is a good choice.
Considering the year and the fact that this demo was recorded by a very recently formed band, the originality and the merciless exploration of new fields of abrasive nihilism are astounding. What's more, the songwriting and technical performance sound exceptionally evolved, and the demo could well be considered a finished and debugged product, ready to be sold to the eager masses. However, it was to take another four years before they managed to release Embrace the Emptiness, and that speaks volumes of the advanced character of this demo; perhaps the world simply wasn't ready for this yet at that point.