Feb 15, 2012

Earth Burnt Black - Harrowing Catharsis ...

This is the début of Colorado prog, sludge, doomsters Earth Burnt Black and that sounds like you are in for a diverse listening experience, you don't know the half of it. The prog element comes in the way the songs are composed and arranged with their being a concept to everything, both thematically and musically. This album is a propulsive, captivating, diverse, and seriously heavy release that leaves you battered and exhausted after its 54 minutes. Just to use other bands as convenient terms of reference for 'Harrowing Catharsis' is tricky because when they do sound like someone else, it never lasts for long. At times, the slower, more melodically driven moments sound like Opeth but far more doomy. Other times it is like classic Celtic Frost and other times like Isis. There are also many moments of pure death-doom especially in the vocal department but death-doom vocals have never sounded so perfect and that is where I must start off this review proper. The vocals on this album are amazing and I normally couldn't give a rats-ass about most vocals in doomy kind of bands but this is a different story. The vocals are constantly changing from clean and melodic to haunting to deep growls and guttural death-metal styled roars. The vocals move and switch around so much that I often find myself completely mesmerized by the range of voices but more importantly, no matter what vocal style is happening at any one time, they all sound incredible.

A lot of people think of the progressive doom tag as pretty silly and well, yes it is really because few bands justify the term. 'Earth Burnt Black' are another band that has been given that tag but calling them "progressive" is a real stretch of the imagination but they are indeed proggy in terms of concepts and the arrangements and yes in true prog-rock tradition, most of the songs are longish with six of the eight tracks over 7 minutes. The album begins with a rather pointless intro, but then the band launch into the ten minutes of 'The March' which is just simply a relentless barrage of death-doom riffs, low guttural vocals, and killer hooks and melodies. I had to play this track three times in a row the first day I got it just to take it all in. The following tune 'Adornment' is dark and aggressive and deathly for the most part but with lighter moments to nicely balance the track out. The bands trademark it seems is to trick the listener into thinking the songs are going to head into more calmer waters when all of a sudden, they steamroll over the top of you with aggressive energy and monstrous riffing.

'Freedom of the Wretched' completes a trio of flawless epics. This one has more proggy elements that most other tracks and is also diverse with sinister spoken word vocals mixed with some of the most interesting death-metal passages I have heard in many years. From here on though, the album slips a little, not a huge fall but enough for you to notice it is not quite as good as it was. 'The Hunt' at just four minutes seems to fly by without leaving a lasting impression but the following 'Lead or Cyanide' is great and memorable. The post-rockish intro to the track which sounds a bit like something Neurosis might do gives way to a majestic deathly doom metal track with even more proggy tendencies this time. 'Vengeance and Fire' is even more epic with a beautiful use of their diverse, multi-dimensional vocal attack. The album then ends on a very fitting 'Epilogue' which surprise, surprise is called 'Epilogue.'

Two things stand out on 'Harrowing Catharsis.' One is the vocals which I have already shot my wad over enough times already in this review but then there is the bass playing and sound. It is not often you hear bass presented in this way on a metal album. Bass sounds tend to be a bit buried in the mix on most metal albums but on this album they are up front and they sound incredible and irresistibly heavy. The bass lines at times are jaw-dropping and catchy and while that is blowing you away, you get some of the most exciting drumming recorded in recent years. So this band is an incredibly tight, well-oiled machine that never misses a beat and never wastes a second on this album. As the album title suggests, the subject matter is dark, downer stuff but it fits the music perfectly. While the albums first half sounds stronger than the second half, there is still no chance of getting bored by this. This is a monumental, surprise release of 2012. Love it.....9/10.

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