Et Moriemur - Tamashii no Yama - (7/10)
Published on April 5, 2022
Do not allow me to conceal from you just how bamboozled Et Moriemur have had me since starting to listen to their fourth full-length and second on Transcending Obscurity, Tamashii no Yama. Having spent most of their career since 2008 dealing in worlds of European antiquity, it strikes me as a major shift for the Czech quintet to suddenly focus on Japanese culture, not least seeing as the bandname and all preceding release titles have been in Latin. Relevant Japanese instrumentation also plays a role across the 40 minutes of new material presented here, which colours the experience with enough unfamiliar detail without even going into the themes and lyrics. What’s more, Et Moriemur have dramatically shifted the goalposts in terms of my expectations towards death doom, including the freer “atmospheric” variety they are frequently labelled with. A good third of Tamashii no Yama is absent of heavy guitars or growls, while the remainder tends to drift around between ideas without a strong sense of direction. The further weirdening of Et Moriemur is truly underway.
Due to the unique style on display here, I do feel the need to discuss how this works in terms of genre. Arguably the only consistent feature of Et Moriemur’s work remains its general slowness, leaving this rather on the funeral doom side of things, especially if one considers the propensity of such bands to omit the heavy elements of extreme metal when necessary. However, unlike seminal funeral elements like Skepticism and Shape Of Despair, who lean more and more towards the safety of post-rock’s amorphousness as they age, Tamashii no Yama quite evidently tries to go somewhere new. All the additional instruments might be found within other atmospheric doom albums – barring, I guess, the shakuhachi, with its specific Eastern sound – though I haven’t really heard an assemblage like this, turning up a neat stately element and that deliberately tamed natural beauty that one often glimpses in Japanese culture. This in comparison to the blankets of fog and rocky desolation that the aforementioned Finns specialize in. Despite the relative extremity of Zdeněk Nevělík’s low growls and more emotive higher shrieks that climax in “Takamagahara”, a super smooth production leaves the album with a meditative detachment for much of its length.
The creativity and novelty of Tamashii no Yama thus deserves my praise, yet what concerns me as a metal listener pertains more to the balance of elements and the focus afforded to each part of the experience. You see, “Haneda” opens the album with piano…and regardless of the other strings and keys that come in towards the end of the 5 minutes, it’s mostly just piano. That acts as a long intro to “Sagami”, keeping up the same piano line alongside swells of heavy chords and impassioned roars, plateauing for the entirety of that briefest song before entering the most recognizable death doom passages when “Oshima” comes around. In this context, the violin backing ugly crawling riffs and highlighted harmonic squeals ought to remind most fans of My Dying Bride’s earlier material, and indeed the whole album begins to lumber forward with a bit of discernible momentum. With an eye on the bigger picture, Et Moriemur continue to make odd decisions in terms of album structure, no song getting much above 5 minutes until the seventh and final cut extends almost to 14 minutes. “Takamagahara” obviously straddles a lot more styles and packs in more content than the rest, but the arrangement of tracks gives the impression that much of the album is an introduction to a single long song.
Of course, the pacing might also be viewed in a more positive light, as an entire experience building gradually to a musical denouement and emotional catharsis, which is true to some extent, although perhaps not in the manner favoured by most regular metal listeners. “Otsuki” features the only strong outburst of deathly pace, while the stunning interplay between melodic doom riffing and lush traditional playing on “Izu” makes me wonder whether Et Moriemur could have combined the twin aspects of their vision more fully on other cuts. Unfortunately, the all too brief highlights only make it clearer to me that Tamashii no Yama is likely to be an experiment too far for most listeners. I’d listen to this more as a background album than a full-focus listen simply because of the relaxed attitude to pacing and intensity, though I find more reasons to take notice in the second half as the drama hots up. Conversely, I’m sure that this will hit the spot with a select audience and Et Moriemur might well appear on some yearly lists with this consummately creative but not always satisfying listen.