Eshtadur - Mother Gray - (7.5/10)
Published on January 13, 2018
Leave it to the good old land of South America to take existing metal practices and throw them for a massive loop. Between the wide array of progressive-leaning power metal acts and death thrashing innovators who have been messing with established formulas for the better part of 30 years, one is tempted to ask “what will they think of next?” One of the ongoing answers being given hails from Colombia and goes by the name Eshtadur, a melodic black metal band with a fairly prominent symphonic gloss that has its own ideas on how they aesthetic of darkness and coldness can be manipulated to fit their fancies. They’ve been at their game for a fair while and have drawn occasional comparisons to more death metal oriented acts popular on the other side of the Atlantic such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septic Flesh, though their latest offering Mother Gray has a few other ideas to go along with the still existing parallels to said bands.
From both a production and an execution standpoint, this comes off as a black metal offering that seeks after a more death metal aesthetic, primarily in the form of a heavier ended riffing approach and deeper vocal assault that isn’t too far out of the realm of recent Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child, but also finds itself in the relentlessly brutal and percussive character of Vader and even Behemoth at times. Vocalist and keyboardist Jorge Lopez, the obvious leader of the fold in terms of song creation as well, goes through a wide array of vocal characters, one of them a fairly appropriate low end death grunt, the other a far more atypical shout that sounds more like a hardcore/metalcore yell and throws something of a punk-infused character into what is otherwise a constant barrage of blasting and machine gun drumming with seas of tremolo riffs that are far too massive and rapid to fit the crusty character of Darkthrone’s late 2000s work.
Song for song, this is a fairly straightforward affair for anyone initiated into the world of blackened death metal, even when accounting for the almost Whitechapel sounding yells interwoven with the Behemoth barks. Fits of blinding speed and frosty rage like “Cornered At The Earth” and “Heavens To The Ground” do mix in some technical quirks and streaming shimmers of blackened haze at times in the guitar work, but largely the formula is fairly predictable. The hyper-thrashing “Last Day Of The Condor” and the blasting brutal yet occasionally tuneful “Plaguemaker” are a tad more intricate, but also spend a fair bit of time dealing in typical patterns for the initiated Fleshgod Apocalypse fan. Probably the only really overt surprises to be found here is the doom-infused trudge through sonic hopelessness that is “Desolation” and the metalcore-infused cover of Survivor’s Burning Heart, featuring clean vocal work that listens like Howard Jones singing along to Arch Enemy.
This is one of those albums that manages to charm by throwing in a couple of isolated quirks and occasionally goes off the reservation, but otherwise tends to play it safe in most respects. It is definitely entertaining and will likely rope in people with a soft spot for Dimmu’s In Sorte Diaboli and Behemoth’s Demigod, and even outclasses them in terms of technical flair, as several guitar solos and sweeping fills adorn this album, some of them flashy enough to rival the noodle-happy madness of a number of tech death outfits. It does wear a bit thin after a few listens and doesn’t quite hit the same sort of memorable sweet spots that most of the aforementioned bands being compared to this one, but this angel turned vulture corpse could stand to be heard a few times by a wider audience.