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Enmerkar > Starlit Passage > Reviews
Enmerkar - Starlit Passage

A folk / martial, near post-metal, trance BM epic - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 14th, 2013

Enmerkar: an unusual name for a black metal band, derived from the name of a Sumerian king who built Uruk in Mesopotamia and reigned for some 420 years. A hard act to follow for this BM project and let's hope the duo do their best in the longevity stakes. As of this time of writing (2013), Enmerkar the band had one EP "Starlit Passage" to its name.

The introduction to the EP overall is a dreamy, beautiful flamenco-styled guitar-strumming wander through pleasant meadows with soft tweeting birds in the forest background, eventually to be covered over by the cold sounds of snowy winds. Black metal proper begins with "Pale Lord Pilgrimage of the Winter Born": this establishes Enmerkar's general style and grim and forbidding it is too. A rhythmic rocketing guitar / percussion racket at near-Mach speeds distinguishes the song. Ambience is icy cold thanks to the blanket use of reverb across the track. Post-metal melodic elements are present and there is a long passage of pure droning metal, swathed in vibrating echo that gives an overwhelming hellish effect to the sound; but the music is too fast, too grim and militaristic to be considered post-metal.

Epic clouds of stormy noise guitar buzz continue on track 3 with the occasional clap of percussive thunder - a fine if short instrumental piece of ambient experimentation. "Scaling the Throne of Arhemanius" returns to fast blast-beat BM noise that occasionally features slightly more relaxed passages of near-folk melody and war-like atmosphere. The outro track is a solemn epic song mixing acoustic guitar folk riffs and melodies with BM machine-gun rhythms and an oppressive mood into something approaching monumental soundtrack music.

The music is very much in the vein of Russian and Ukrainian black metal bands that combine withering noisy BM guitar feedback buzz with folk melodies and a melancholy air. Some influence from US Cascadian bands like Ash Borer, Fell Voices and Wolves in the Throne Room can be gleaned here. The last song "This Ancient Land of Sorrow and Beauty" is almost structured like a WitTR song: as it progresses to its climax, it acquires a strongly hopeful mood and becomes very bright and optimistic. There are moments also where the music becomes trance-like and aspires to be transcendental.

The main gripes I have with the music is that the thin raspy vocals are nearly lost on most songs and the songs themselves are quite short for such monumental music. Intensity builds to a level where the music almost takes off with a life all its own, only for the songs to end and the listener left hanging off a cliff. The last track in particular seems a cop-out, as if the Enmerkar guys lost their nerve having created such an incredible musical golem and had to get out quickly to figure out how to resolve the tension generated and soothe the complex emotions aroused here. This is a real pity as there is a lot of potential in the music to be something at once massive and majestic, beautiful and full of feeling, haunting and deeply immersive. An opportunity to bridge together post-metal melodic elements, trance, near-experimental BM drone buzz and folk / martial melodies was seized here but not quite fulfilled.

Deeply Awesome - 90%

Sargon_The_Terrible, October 13th, 2010

This is the debut from the oddly-named Enmerkar (Enmerkar was a mysterious king of ancient Sumer, said to have founded the city of Uruk, and sometimes conflated with Nimrod.) This is a US band, but I really could have told you that without looking, as their sound is so closely related to Wolves in the Throne Room that if you just heard this without knowing who it was, you would swear it was bonus tracks off "Malevolent Grain" or something. Which is not to say this is not good, in fact, it is excellent.

This presents a slightly thicker, more orchestral sound than WitTR, with densely layered chords and much less distinction between the instruments. The vocals are quite sparse, and the rasps are mixed low enough that you can miss them easily, which I think only adds to the arcane and mysterious feel of the recording. This is too dense for me to label it atmospheric – though it has lots of atmosphere – and is not laid-back enough to be lumped in with the post-metal crowd. Overall I find this a gripping and satisfying listen, only hampered by not being nearly long enough. Enmerkar may be imitating WitTR a bit more than they should, but if they keep doing it this well I for one will not tell them to quit. Besides, a band that shows this much maturity and melodic sense will find their own way sooner rather than later. A deeply impressive debut that makes me want more.

Originally written for

Little Shoegazing To Be Had. - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, June 20th, 2009

Black metal is often horribly misleading. When all the ingredients for a fine feast are at hand, the end product should surely be delectable, delicious and heavenly. Right? Well, all is not well in this troublesome genre that contains many misconceptions. Modern day black metal isn’t obsessed with traditional values as much as it once was. Its obsession as swayed and is on course for allowing experimentation with new sounds and fusions with other genres that creates certain sub-genres like ambient black metal, or depressive black metal, the most common form of fusion in today’s society. However, under the layers of depression that mask the façade of this once formulaic genre, certain sides lie hidden in the depths that are largely unheard or spoken of. Enmerkar, a sure-to-be-much-debated American band are prophesising a form of atmospheric black metal, but there is much more to this than meets the eye. Shades of grey cover the multi-coloured soundscapes that this band inflicts upon its audience and clichés scar the end result in this maligned effort from a part of the world where black metal is supposedly flawed in every possible way. I once read somewhere that this band likes to mix post-rock and shoegaze with its black metal styling but, to be honest, I don’t hear it.

The atmospheric tag is sufficient enough and this band does not warrant an inclusion into the list of post-rock inspired black metal bands where acts like Altar of Plagues and Fen reside, content in the notion that bands like Enmerkar will not succeed them to the crown. I would imagine the shoegaze description would come from the elongated soundscapes that are elegantly displayed in a series of repetitive ambient section that stretch out into the distance like a road that leads to the never ending horizon. I do not believe that, however much the musicians might be inspired by shoegaze and the like, that this fits into the list of notable acts attempting to pioneer this fusion of genres. This, to me, is closer to ambient black metal than it is post-rock, or shoegaze inspired black metal. The notion of such a genre only became accessible to the masses, seemingly, when Alcest changed their style from the romanticised black metal sound that Amesoeurs later took on, to the shoegazing soundscapes of ‘Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde’ that opened up a new world to most metal fans who were stuck inside their bubbles. Everything about ‘Starlit Passage’ screams “look at me! - We’re following in the footsteps of the bands who have hit the heights of mainstream glory.”

Personally, as a fan of Alcest and the like, I cannot disparage the new styles that are springing up. In fact, I praise it, but when bands pretend to be something they’re not, that is when I develop an attitude that is problematic to the band’s fan base. I’m not even sure it’s the band themselves who’re creating this apparent fuss, it may just be the over exuberant fans who’re delving into their boxes of magic and creating ambiguous tags for bands who don’t necessarily fit the style they’re claiming they do. Enmerkar, to me, are what the individual dedication says they are - atmospheric black metal. Just because a band chooses to use synthesizers as a tool for lighting up the background does not make them a shoegazing entity. The repetition of this band, the mystical vibe that is present within both the lyrics and the instrumentation, is a black metal product - not a shoegaze product. Repetition has been a central figurehead in the history of black metal since the dawn of creation and I dare say it always will be. The synthesizers, although enigmatic and obscure, aren’t the entirety of this bands sound. They add a different dimension, yes, but it isn’t the only dimension we’re offered. Unfortunately, though the combination of the synthesizers and the ever-present guitars is overwhelmingly beautiful, the content is a bit drab.

This oddly juxtaposed feel is one I did not expect, at any point prior to listening to this EP, ‘Starlit Passage’. The mystical nature, alongside the atmospheric description both intrigued me and left me in suspense, feeling that this could offer up the next best thing in the genre (though there has been a lot of those in recent times), but the end product was lacking a direction that surely would have made this little unknown EP a massive success. There are qualities here that the majority of black metal fans, regardless of what type of black metal one enjoys, can buy into. The war machine like percussion, reminiscent of the war themed raw black metal style, to the ambient guitars that often lean towards a style of distortion akin to bands like Darkspace or Velvet Cacoon and, of course, the harsh whispered vocals during certain songs that abide by these previous ideas. Unfortunately, as suggested, the music is a bit light of the content. It may be thought provoking, to an extent, and it may be nostalgic, also to an extent, but that is just the problem with Enmerkar’s debut offering - everything is offered to an extent, never in abundance.

Atmosphere is present until the style shifts from one suspected inspiration to another and in between with have a series of unfortunate events that drives my opinion towards a confused end. Before we get started on it, I, personally, do not buy into this whole argument that there’s something in the American genes that makes a musician incapable of achieving the heights that any European has achieved within this genre of metal. In actual fact, a number of obscure bands often overthrow my timid opinions of who rules this system divided by class. American bands are the worlds communist force, and Europe is the democratic force, attempting to overrule the American side which pleads for an abolishment of the class system, tearing down the reign of terror that the European black metal scene has had over its American counterpart. This mysterious entity, besides the lush ambiance, or the creative semi-acoustics, is dull. The content floats as if it were a shoegazing piece, but without conviction. I will definitely keep my eye on this band in the future, but I don’t hold as much excitement for them as I once perhaps did. Mediocre, at best.