EPHEL DUATH’s latest EP is that rare beast – an avant-garde/progressive metal release where tasteful restraint is the order of the day. Those expecting lots of flash and fireworks cannot really be blamed though, as the high profile players involved here (Karyn Crisis, Marco Minnemann, Steve DiGiorgio) certainly hints at that, but then again this outfit never did care much for convention.
That’s not to say that “On Death And Cosmos” is a straightforward and easily digestible affair - the jagged rhythms and atonal dynamic definitely make this a niche release - but overall the songs are imbued with much more textured subtlety than one might expect. There is precious little on here that will immediately jump at the listener, with the band opting instead to go for a slow-brooding approach where delicate grooves emerge gradually from swathes of choppy rhythmic propulsions, with faint melodic tinkering discernible in the background. Taken individually it comes off as a tad nondescript but when taken as a whole everything on here ‘clicks’ quite nicely.
“Black Prism” sees the band toss about a few disparate melodies, all wrapped in a semi-grooving Blackened Sludge veneer, before those trademark Jazzy runs finally start popping up in “Raqia” which gradually builds up to a satisfying crescendo of stomping grooves around the 5 minute mark. “Stardust Rain” represents what is easily the most linear offering on here, with the doomy tempo nicely offset by a liberal sprinkling of Post-Rock melodies whirling about in the undercurrent. It manages to conjure a tangibly sad vibe, quite fitting when one considers the lyrical themes of loss, abandonment and self-transformation.
It’s quite unexpected, considering the pedigree of the other musos involved here, but guitarist and founding member Davide Tiso is easily the star performer here. The stellar production job (Eric Rutan handled mixing duties) lends his guitar tone a nice grungy edge and his restless rhythmic grooves and knack for understated melody ensure that the songs never lose their driving oomph. At the end of the day this all adds up to an EP that won’t necessarily blow you across the room from the get-go, yet provides just under 20 minutes of solid thinking man’s Metal.
PS: Is it just me, or does the cover art bear a curious resemblance to BLACKGUARD’s “Firefight”?
(Online June 20, 2012)