Ephel Duath - Pain Necessary to Know
Elitist Records
Avant-Garde Metal
9 songs (37:26)
Release year: 2005
Ephel Duath
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
A band with an ever-shifting lineup and an ever-shifting sound, Pain Necessary to Know was the fourth full-length by the Italian Ephel Duath, released in 2005.

If I remember rightly, the band were touring Europe with The Dillinger Escape Plan around the time of the release of this album, which seems to make sense when the sound of Pain Necessary to Know is deciphered. Each of their albums has been a step into new forms of oddity. In the early days we had strange and twisty electronic-heavy “black metal”. Then by the time of The Painter’s Palette the band were concentrating heavily on integrating jazz elements more thoroughly into their sound. These were proper jazz elements, i.e. jazz instrumentation and soloing, rather than simply making compositions a little bit unpredictable and calling it “jazz influenced”.

But on Pain Necessary to Know the strangeness was easier to quantify with regard to the rest of the “avant-garde” scene. This is not to say it was “easier” in any way. In fact, compositionally, the twists and turns were both more frequent and more jolting than they had ever been in the past. But references here seem to be clearer. I said above that touring with TDEP made sense at the time of the album, and that it did, because much of the dynamism and character of the music here stems from its rapid throwing of the listener from one frenetic and aggressive musical passage to another. Whereas before it felt a little like the band were dwelling more thoughtfully on the search for a specific and clear fusion sound, here they are going all out to confuse with rapid somersaults. Another reference would be Mr Bungle, but Pain... is hardly as eclectic as the work of that band.

Instead, there seem to be a couple of different modes of performance that they seem to alternate between, as rapidly and jarringly as possible, perhaps trying to kid you that they have more ideas than they do. There is the strange, meandering, lighter style of playing that has been a large part of their sound since Painter’s Palette. Guitar lines wander about pretty haphazardly, picking out jazzy lines whilst studiously avoiding repetition, or, indeed, melody, accompanied by shifting and tangled percussive thumpings in the background. These moments didn't really grab me on the last one, and they don't really grab me here. But the jazz influence is more pronounced than ever in these passages, with the guitar lines having the character of free improv, and the drums even occasionally tapping out swing rythms to make it more obvious. The other side is more aggressive and comprehensible screaming moments, although these tend to last for very short periods of time (on the opener in particular the TDEP influence is especially clear). This jerking from one to the other can actually work extremely well, such as on Crystalline Whirl. When it succeeds, it feels a bit like this bunch of disparate and half-baked musings have fallen into place for a few magical moments. Most of the other tracks here pull similar tricks, but don’t quite manage to accomplish this coming together. There are a few moments where distinctive and inventive musical ideas appers, such as the otherwordly murky sludge infesting Vector, but more often it sounds a bit linear.

Part of me wants to embrace the band wholeheartedly. Originality and uncompromising strangeness are values to be treasured, but it strikes me that Pain Necessary to Know tries too hard to throw you off the scent, and as such can’t match the more interesting experimentations of earlier records. Nonetheless I of course look forward to hearing Through my Dog’s Eyes. A strange album by a strange band.

Killing Songs :
Crystalline Whirl, Vector, Imploding
Charles quoted 65 / 100
Adam quoted 80 / 100
Goat quoted 84 / 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 - Through My Dog's Eyes reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 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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