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Massive and solid if unimaginative funeral doom - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, August 6th, 2012

I guess when you're onto a good thing, you may as well stick with it even after an album trilogy which was Ea's original raison d'etre. This self-titled one-track album may signal a new beginning or change of direction for the mystery Russian band inspired by sacred texts of ancient civilisations written in languages long forgotten and undeciphered. A very brief and delicate piano melody is our entry point into the grand universe of Ea's ambitions and music: chiming guitars, some with vibrato effects, bombastic percussion and keyboards that lend a rich and warm ambient halo around the gloomy procession. Listeners may well feel they're witnesses to a grand funeral cortege that never ends. Vocals are deep and near-indecipherable beneath the layers of sound (though they're not thick layers) and there is some death metal influence in the drumming.

These guys have learned something from their last three full-length outings: there is more emotion in this offering and the music does build up in intensity, slowly yet surely, with passages where the instruments pause and there is only the afterglow of a heavenly choral ambience bathing listeners in a warm light. At about the 17th minute the musicians include a field recording of water being swirled about which is an interesting if probably pointless touch since the music resumes its onward and upward climb with no change. Spacey quicksilver liquid effects appear a little later.

Just past the halfway point and black metal elements enter with harsh sandpaper vocals, a faster synth drumming pattern and a definite guitar melody leading the way. Clean female vocals, smooth and soothing, enter the picture. Lead guitar dominates from this point on and while it provides a necessary focus, it's bland in sound and quite boring in delivery as the track progresses. At various points along the way, the deep gruff vocal declaims lyrics while guitars sorrowfully circle them, going slightly off-key at regular intervals, as if to launch into a different, perhaps more ominous direction.

Save for a brief pause about the 39th minute when the music died down to trickling water, the track proceeds relentlessly in its own strange, somewhat delirious style towards the end. The music barely changes pace but chugs steadily along, not building up very much intensity as if sensing its time is nearly over.

It's solid if not particularly imaginative music and especially in its second half, the track does bog down and lets the lead guitar fiddle aimlessly. Parts of the track could have been edited to tighten up the music and give the impression of ever-increasing tension, even a bit of urgency here and there. At least the musicians did well to try to vary the music throughout by introducing some death metal, black metal, electroacoustic and traditional Christian religious musical elements but these never last long, nor do they interact much so tensions that might arise from their fusion and help to sustain the track are missed. I do get the feeling that at times the musicians were so awed by their creation that they lost control of it in parts and let the music run away under its own massive weight; there's a self-indulgent and pretentious element in the whole mammoth missive that in future years might colour the track as a huge piece of atmospheric funeral doom kitsch.