Friday, May 17, 2013

Eibon - II (2013)

As Americans, we always feel as though we have a lot to apologize for. We're not all in the KKK. We're not all racist, ethnocentric jack-offs. That much I can promise you. And despite the assertions of many a redneck or ignoramus, we also know that the French are far from weak. And while the narrow minded and mentally dull might equate strength with military power, it is in the music that we can find the most impressive asset of France. Hardened five piece Eibon, from the capital city of Paris, might have more raw power pouring through their amps than our military has in all of our nuclear weapons. With influences ranging from the legendary Pink Floyd to cult hero Varg Vikernes and Burzum, it would be very easy to assume they'd follow the blooming set of psychedelic stoner bands that France has been churning out left and right. But, you know what they say about assuming? I don't either, but I can safely say you'd be off the mark. The two tracks on "II," which is surely not a coincidence, are enough to convince any "freedom fries" proponent that the French are, indeed, a world superpower.

It doesn't take long before your ear drums are being assaulted by a barrage of crushing instrumentals and devastating vocal lines. The two pronged guitar attack, lead by Max Hedin and Guillaume Taliercio, does the bulk of the heavy lifting in the first movement of "The Void Settlers." Their layered approach does wonders for the depth of the mix, without ever giving off that overly polished feel. Instead, the entire production feels raw, but professional. The exception is, notably, the vocals of frontman Georges Balafas, which crackle and pop with deathly tones. Contained within this nearly nineteen minute behemoth are several timing and tempo changes, some subtle and some not so much. The downtempo, doom laden portion might be the strongest moments, creating a stirring, spine shaking mood that is as impressive as you can imagine. But it is where the album builds from there that shows off their genius. The halfway mark of the track is a milestone, a point where the band reaches their full potential. Blaring guitar riffs, a shaking bass line, and a constant set of rolls and fills on the drum kit all share equal time in the mix, leaving you with a sludgy, yet wholly atmospheric midsection. Brick by brick, the wall of sound is rebuilt before exploding once again with a dense groove. You can feel that it is all building towards something; that something is a chaotic, screaming finish of feedback and distortion.

An eerily calm beginning to "Elements Of Doom," a quiet intro that lasts for a brief three minutes, is quickly destroyed in the first wave of distortion. Balafas is at his best here, his choked screams cutting through the immense wall of guitars. The air of pure evil that blows through the track does something special for the soundscape, as do the deadly accurate guitar leads that flow from one segment to the next. Don't be fooled, though, this isn't a delicate, dainty foray into melodic masterpieces. Sure, there are some well crafted grooves to be found throughout the track, with a high density of them in the bass driven post metal styled breakdowns. But they are not the foundation of all things to come. The rhythm section of bassist Stephane Riviere and drummer Jerome Lachaud shine brightest in these more chaotic moments, with Lachaud in particular releasing a battery of percussion in the most congested of areas. His stick work can leave your head feeling as though it might explode under the pressure. When combined with layer upon layer of grinding distortion and vocal mayhem, it is almost too much for the recording to take. But then, the outro comes. The chaos ends. And rain drops fall. You can finally relax, and sit back in your seat. It is a beautiful ending to a bloodbath of a track.

The apprehension we all feel when we see tracks stretching into the twenty minute mark isn't wrong; it is a programmed response. Few bands can successfully make a twenty minute opus feel like it flew by in the blink of an eye. Eibon might not have bent space and time here, but they have certainly proven that they can make a song of these lengths, without resulting to boring, droning riffs that repeat endlessly. Instead, they give you a mere two tracks, both with countless acts inside of them, that span over forty minutes of air time. Not once do you find yourself looking at the clock, hoping it is almost over. And not once will you feel the need to skip ahead to see what is next. You get lost in wave after wave of crippling drum work, with each snare crack and kick drum thud feeling like another bruise on your rib cage. You get swept up in the distortion and grit of the guitars, pushing and pulling you in every direction. And you get pounded into the ground with each screaming lyric. I'd say that is a rousing endorsement, if I've ever heard one. One may be the loneliest number, but "II" is the most painful.


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