Ephel Duath - Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness
Agonia Records
Progressive Metal, Avant-Garde
8 songs (51:33)
Release year: 2013
Ephel Duath, Agonia Records
Reviewed by Goat

Following up last year's disappointing On Death and Cosmos EP, and almost retaining the same lineup (Steve diGiorgio on bass is replaced by Dethklok's Brian Beller) the fifth full-length from Ephel Duath is sadly just as disappointing. Karyn Crisis' vocals vary a little more, but whether her hardcore croak or her deep growl, it just doesn't fit the noodling of Tiso's guitar or Marco Minneman's interesting backing drumming, making it a huge obstacle to overcome. What's more, Tiso seems to have lost the art of songwriting altogether, as each track here is not just overlong at six to seven minutes each, but painfully meandering and without focus. The lack of obvious means that there's little to draw you in, and the lack of essential differences between songs means that it quickly gets repetitive to the point of tediousness.

Not a great start, then! And I'm still struggling with it, multiple listens later. You can tell that there is some superb musicianship going on, especially from Minneman who has saved the album from a lower score, and Tiso's guitar is understated yet perfectly matches the drums, embellishing and building on them like meat on bones. And being fair to Crisis, her vocal performance is excellent. The problem is, it's so distracting that it's impossible to look past it most of the time. And the problems laid out above are so compound that it can be a real struggle to find good things to say about Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness. I'm trying, though, because I've loved Ephel Duath for a long time and enjoyed the previous album, Through My Dog's Eyes, more than most. Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness is a continuation of that sound, the jazziness very controlled, pushed into the background rather than chaotic and in your face as on The Painter's Palette and Pain Necessary to Know.

The music is less energetic and alive, then, but brooding and dark. And in these terms, it works, opener Feathers under my Skin like a slow-motion mental breakdown (watching Black Swan last night definitely helped the comparison). There's a shade of difference in a spoken vocal line, the only one on the album, but it's gone as soon as it has appeared, and the album's rolling onto Tracing the Path of Blood. It's worth mentioning that Through Flames I Shield has a slightly different approach, speeding up and making Crisis' vocals more of an assault, working better with the backing music. And really, more of that is what was needed, more of Through My Dog's Eyes random moments like saxophone and programming, more variation, a better sense of story from the music. Unfortunately the album lacks that, and comes across as a musical depiction of the artwork – an architectural anomaly that ignores the usual rules of how things are put together and as a result is obtuse and difficult. This seems to be the direction that Tiso is taking his band in, and fair enough. But it's not one I like in comparison to the earlier days, and I fear Ephel Duath are in a rut that will just get even more painfully dull with each new release, technically sound as it may be.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted 55 / 100
Other albums by Ephel Duath that we have reviewed:
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 - 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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