Ephel Duath - Through My Dog's Eyes
Earache Records
Progressive Metal
9 songs (32:18)
Release year: 2009
Ephel Duath, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat

I’m not sure that ‘toning it down’ is something that Ephel Duath will ever do, but initial listens to album number four (a concept piece about, well, the world through a dog’s eyes) seem to suggest just that. Another line-up change has seen the band lose bassist extraordinaire Fabio Fecchio, vocalist Luciano George Lorusso and master drummer Davide Piovesan, and the replacements usher in a whole new period in Ephel Duath’s existence. Now a three-piece, this line-up also includes (aside from Davide Tiso on guitar, of course) Marco Minnemann on drums (Necrophagist, Illogicist) and one Guillermo Gonzalez on vocals, apparently a professional poker player. It’s his input which is the most immediate difference from 2005’s Pain Necessary To Know, taking a more deep and growly approach than Lorusso’s manic screams. I suppose his ‘barky’ style fits the concept, but it’s quite different from what I, and I assume you, were expecting.

Not to sound like a fanboy, but putting it bluntly Through My Dog’s Eyes is a big step away from the band’s previous two albums in style. Technically, Minneman and Tiso are faultless, although I preferred Piovesan’s more Jazzy style of sticksmanship. Tiso especially is the bedrock of the album, his guitar playing simply masterful as all sorts of jaggy-edged riffs gets thrown around, styles ranging from the expected Jazz to a new, oddly Rock and Bluesy feel. They’re deeper than before, too, so you don’t really miss the bass as much as I feared. There are clearly differing influences at work here, including that of The Dillinger Escape Plan (Ben Weinman providing some programming on Bark Loud) and as a result the Post-Hardcore elements of Ephel Duath’s sound that have been lurking in the background since The Painter’s Palette are much more obvious. It’s simpler in structure than before, above all, although still quite far from easy listening.

Change is rarely immediately acceptable, even more so in Metal than other genres, but it’s hard listening to the laid-back noodling that opens Spider Shaped Lens and not pine for the chaos of past days. Even at its most unhinged, Through My Dog’s Eyes has a sense of control, a muzzle or lead, even, that rides atop the music nudging it back into position whenever it threatens to get out of hand. There are moments that suggest Ephel Duath’s natural genius at work – the lazy swing of Gift, for example, pleasant instrumental motifs piled atop each other to create a nifty little Prog track that’s reminiscent of King Crimson in many ways. Promenade is a more intense take on the same topic, and from then on the album seems to meander naturally down the same path. Sure, there are moments like the saxophone-enhanced Breed that seem a little more aggressive, but there’s little of the unleashed rabidity of Pain Necessary To Know, that being one of the reasons that people are attracted to Ephel Duath in the first place.

The enclosed DVD on the limited edition goes some way towards explaining Tiso’s mindset in the creation of the album, once you’ve gotten past his incredibly thick Italian accent. Filmed in an abandoned mental hospital, the decaying surroundings fit the ‘stray dog’ theme, but Tiso spends as much time talking about the band’s past as he does the present album, and whilst it’s illuminating for a long-term fan like myself, if you’re looking for insights into Through My Dog’s Eyes, rehearsal footage, etc, then you’ll probably be frustrated. Having said that, Tiso did make the interesting point that the band’s direction on this album is as naked as the animal’s emotions – they’re no longer ‘hiding’ behind complex structures, but are baring all. He also explains some of the lyrics behind each song, for example, Gift is the dog presenting its owner with a dead cat, Breed is the compulsion to fight other dogs, and so on.

Tiso ends with what is virtually a plea to the viewer; to have patience, to give Through My Dog’s Eyes a real chance, and it’s easy to see where he comes from. None of the band’s other albums were instant or easy to get into, and this is no exception. It’s certainly worth multiple listens, and the more times I’ve played it the more I like it, but it’s clear that this album is going to be on and off the playlist for the next couple of years, advancing and retreating in my estimation. I suspect that Tiso likes it that way, but it makes it difficult to recommend, or even describe in writing. The best I can ultimately offer is that Through My Dog’s Eyes deserves a place in the collection of any Ephel Duath fan, and whilst at the moment I’m feeling more disappointment with it than anything, in a few weeks, months or years my opinion may change completely – the score given reflects the first five or so listens and may well rise in the future.

In an age where instant gratification is all the rage – especially in Metal – it’s strangely pleasing to see an artist that rebels against this and creates a piece of art that takes a good deal of work to fathom. As Tiso says on the DVD at the start, he was reluctant to create the DVD at all, not wanting to fall into the current trap where unless you offer some special packaging or bonus to enhance your album, people aren’t so likely to purchase your work. Well, I’m glad I did, more than most CDs I buy, and I can guarantee that Through My Dog’s Eyes is a pretty unique album in an era where originality is the exception, not the norm. If you’ve been following Ephel Duath this far, then buy this and let it unfold over time; even if you dislike this at first, you may come to like it in the future, in a way that’s completely different from a band releasing an average album which you come to love despite its faults. It’s a big deal for a band to ask for this much faith from their fanbase – indeed, few others would get away with it – but the rewards from Ephel Duath’s music this far have been so amazing that personally, at least, I’m willing to take the chance. There’s more to this than initially meets the ear, and I’m looking forward to the digging as much as I am dreading it.

MySpace
Killing Songs :
Gift, Promenade, Breed, Nina, Guardian
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Ephel Duath that we have reviewed:
Ephel Duath - Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness reviewed by Goat and quoted 55 / 100
Ephel Duath - On Death and Cosmos reviewed by Jaime and quoted No Quote
Ephel Duath - Pain Necessary to Know reviewed by Charles and quoted 65 / 100
Ephel Duath - The Painter's Palette reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Ephel Duath - RePhormula reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
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