Just when you thought Ukraine couldn’t get any weirder, out floats ETHEREAL RIFFIAN and their debut EP, 2011’s “Shaman’s Visions.” Russia’s sneaky little cousin to the southwest, Ukraine may not be the first country you think of when the words Stoner and Doom and Psychedelia come to mind, but that may all change after giving this album a couple spins.
This quartet plays an extremely spaced-out brand of Experimental Metal that is almost perfectly exemplified through the fantastical imagery of the front cover. It feels drug-addled and mystical, a recipe of strange ingredients smoked out slowly, its effects numbing and rhythmic and at times awesomely crushing.
Sectioned into five parts or tracks, this EP has both the conceptual energy and play-length of an LP. “Part I – Whispering of the Ancients (The Awakening)” is introduced with soothing and ominous affect as relaxing tribal drumming welcomes in conversational guitar lines. The bass and the album’s first cymbal crashes are not far behind, and soon the initial grand density of the album hurls forward, bursting lithely and anew in the form of “Part II – Beyond (The Search),” a quintessentially sand-scaped haven of swirling spirit and loud, jutting rock, and likewise abode to ETHEREAL RIFFIAN’s particularly ghostlike and soulful brand of soloing. This second passage also welcomes the vocals of Valeriy “Stonezilla” Kornev. Although he’s no Mike Scheidt or Maynard James Keenan, Korney’s delivery and fittingly droned singing, both low and brooding, blends nicely with the music.
While breaking down each track might serve the best interest of some, such a task defeats the purpose of “Shaman’s Visions” and its makers. The band has created an album that breathes singular and unique over the course of one cathartic half-an-hour. “Part III – Yax Imix Che (The Path” works just as the name endears, and the ensuing “Part IV – The Voice of Reason (The Enlightenment)” is the skull-shaker, the moment of bliss and shudder, the meeting place of ETHEREAL RIFFIAN’s roots and Hard Rock bravado. And so when the ideas have been grazed, collected and rehashed, then lies “Part V – Light of Self (The Truth),” a sum of the previous works that envelops all of the fuzz and electric blur into a piece that leisurely explains the journey taken amidst howling wolves and a crackling firelight.
Alongside STONED JESUS and SNAKERIDER, Ukraine and its neighboring Russia, also home to great emerging Stoner/Doom acts like THE MOON MISTRESS and LORD OF DOUBTS, appears to be on the precipice of unleashing a novel wave of inspired and unbearably heavy groups. ETHEREAL RIFFIAN are indeed one of them. Absorbing, trippy, and with a sound as big as a sand dune, “Shaman’s Visions” is one hell of a debut.
(Online May 18, 2012)