Friday, January 31, 2014

Ea - A Etilla

Ea are an enigmatic funeral doom band, presumably based in Russia, who seem to have a fair sized following as funeral doom outfits go. I'd never listened to the band before, so the release of their newest album A Etilla  earlier this month seemed like a good opportunity to give them a whirl.

This is one of those records where the entire run-time consists of a single grand, winding track. It's not necessarily a major drawback, since many funeral doom albums are meant to be listened to as a complete piece like a classical symphony, but it does mean you need to be ready to dedicate 49 minutes to sit down and listen to one song.

All the genre standards are at work here instrumentally: the deeply sluggish riffs, the choral background keyboards, the drawn-out growls, the rock-steady drumming, and the lilting clean guitar leads are all present and accounted for. Naturally, as is almost necessarily the case for such a long track, the soft/heavy dynamic is at play to maintain some sense of progression throughout the song. There are also some notable tempo shifts, and at times the pace and drumming patterns even reach the steady rhythm of a slow death metal track. These shifts in dynamic help keep the music from totally fading into the background, which it could otherwise quite easily do. The vocals are solid. The riffs are good if somewhat standard, and basically every instrument does its job correctly. Ea seem to have a firm grasp of what they're doing, and everything from the writing to the delivery to the production is solid.

Now you may have noticed that everything I've said so far is basically positive, but it's all tinged with a certain degree of reservation. That's because, at its heart, this is perfectly respectable funeral doom that simply fails to really distinguish itself. There's nothing wrong with it, but there's nothing outstanding about it either. It lacks the crushing dread of Ahab or the dark beauty of Evoken. Instead it tows the line, doing everything it's supposed to do and not one bit more. It's fairly pretty, but it's not pretty enough. It's fairly dark, but it's not dark enough. It's fairly heavy, but it's not heavy enough. Unfortunately, funeral doom is such an investment of time and patience that if a given album is not an actively rewarding listen it can feel like something of a letdown. And while I didn't dislike this record, I can't deny that I felt a little letdown that it wasn't more . . . something. Anything. Just more unique or powerful or original or distinctly remarkable in some way.

This is a perfectly acceptable introduction to what funeral doom should sound like, but personally I wouldn't suggest it as anything more than a beginner's course.

Grade: B-

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