Ephel Duath – Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness (Agonia Records)

Sunday, 17th November 2013
Rating: 6.5/10

A band that has always been more slippery than palatable, America-by-way-of-Italy avant-garde metallers Euphel Duath are guided by the esoteric views of mainman Davide Tiso. Previous incarnations of the band saw them make some headway via the lancing The Painter’s Palette and best album, Pain Necessary to Know, but since their split with Earache, the band has been uprooted to the point where Tiso has a near-all-star cast around him, something you’d think would be of benefit to Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness, yet it’s another one of those obtuse efforts that might only be enjoyable to the parties who created it.

The strangled, coarse vocals of Karyn Crisis are at times, a bit cartoonish, as her once devilish rasp is somewhat thwarted when having to work with Tiso’s really weird riffs. And these riffs aren’t weird in a Voivod sense – they’re just patterned with such odd chord combinations that nothing ever feels settled. “Uncomfortable” might be the word, actually. Take cuts like “When Mind Escapes Flesh” or “Those Gates to Nothing.” Tiso often finds a few clever riffs in which to work with, but jumbles them in such a fashion that separating what could possibly be memorable and what isn’t becomes the main chore across the album.

This just a really difficult, unforgiving album, one that probably requires an infinite amount of attention and patience. A golden rule of being a musician is to keep one’s audience in mind, but across Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness, it appears the only thing Tiso was thinking about was how weird and alien he could make everything sound. Mission accomplished.

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