Thursday, July 26, 2012

Edenian - Winter Shades (2012)

Beauty and the beast. We use that phrase so often to describe the world of metal; the way a harsh male vocal somehow fits like a puzzle piece with a heavenly female voice. Separately, they would be enough to delight fans the world over. Together, they can move mountains. Edenian, a six piece from Ukraine, work this combination with the skill and savvy of the best of them. But with a band that was merely an idea two years ago, and only truly came into being last year, the contrast is as impressive as it is powerful. On their debut album, "Winter Shades," this newcomer may quickly remind you of one of the titans of the death/doom genre.

A short intro, titled "Decadent Blossoms," gets things started with a sense of beauty. Light piano keys and airy synthesizers fill the air, before landing squarely into "Thy Heavens Wept In Mourn." You are immediately taken to familiar territory, a sound that may echo the previous output of Draconian. The striking voice of Samantha Sinclair plays the perfect contrast to not only the grating male vocals, but also the heavy distorted guitars. The verse sections are down tempo and simplistic, with a consistent drum beat and piano riff backing Sinclair. But as the chorus nears, the walls come down, and the full bands explodes onto the scene. They are at their best in segments like these, at full volume and full power. As you roll into the title track, "Winter Shades," you get some of the strongest, and weakest points all in one. The combination of light, ethereal segments and massive splashes are excellent, making each separate portion stand out all that much more. But the clean male vocal falls slat, but literally and figuratively, taking away from the overall sound of the track. The drumming, however, transcends the vocal missteps, with blast beats and fills that ring out well beyond.

Beginning with a spoken word segment, "The Field Where I Died" carries an emotional weight, both musically and lyrically. Synthesizers make up the backbone for the track, always present in some form. The deathly growls shake you to the core, before the off key clean vocals enter. Despite their lack of punch compared to their counterparts, they don't throw things off the same way they did before, thanks largely to a well crafted musical portion. Unlike many bands who flood their music with constant double kicks, they are used sparingly here, heightening their impact. The beauty of light piano keys returns on "When I Gave Her My Eden," eventually enveloped in a rattling distortion. Sinclair also makes her return to the fold, carry the torch through the verse sections. This may fit in as the strongest track on the album, giving you everything you have come to expect from the death/doom genre, but with a power that is often lacking in newer acts. The guitar riffs carry the aura of darkness, both in their fluttering notes and massive chord work. And, unlike some of their predecessors, the harsh male vocals, provided by Alexander Ovchinnikov and Vladimir Tsymbal have depth and variety.

A tempo change is in order for the early stages of "Embittered Silence," taking a more subdued approach in the first verse section. But as Sinclair enters in the chorus, things come back to life, rolling like thunder under the higher register of her voice. The screams sound pained, as if carrying the weight of so many wrongs from before. This makes them, in some way, relatable and easier to understand. The shifts back and forth from slow to fast, clean to distorted, create a great sense of style. In a band with so many moving pieces, it seems odd to say that the drumming takes center stage at any point, but it does just that in "Beauty Entwined." The layers of distortion part for a barrage of percussion. Every snare, every cymbal, every kick hit you squarely between the eyes. When stacked in cooperation with clean and heavy guitars, and dueling vocals, you are left with a sound that is larger than life, and bigger than you could expect. Intertwined with the heavenly vocals of Sinclair, "Fall The Dusk" also boasts some spoken words that enhance the mood created. It is almost frightening how a beautiful voice can make the most painful words seem so much less so, as if an angel is delivering the death sentence.

Another well rounded track, "Burning Horizon," occupies the tale end of the album, giving you as much as you can handle from the darker vocal styles. Each deathly growl, every grunt finds a place. Followed closely by a stunning female voice, that of Sinclair, gives it all a layer of polish. The band is in full force by now, with every separate element melding together in a fractured, and frightening, harmony. The death/doom style is played to perfection here, combining that raging distorted guitar work with a booming drum kit. Each note is played like it could be their last, an excellent way to treat it all. Even the choreographed stop before the final push is enough to get a fist up in triumph. The finale, an outro by the name of "Beneath An Abstract Sun," plays at your heartstrings with an array of strings and synthesizers playing the saddest tune you will find on the album. single piano keys rings out above it all, bringing you full circle.

For every shining star in any given musical genre, there is always a need for a breath of fresh air to keep things from going stale. So while the death/doom arena is packed to the rafters with impressive bands from all over the world, Edenian bring so much to the party that it is impossible to ignore them. Whether or not this album is beginner's luck remains to be seen, but there are an awful lot of brilliantly written and executed passages to be considered luck. Instead, it would be safer to assume that we will not only hear more from this Ukranian six piece, but that it will be equal to the challenge of the sophomore slump. In the meantime, take "Winter Shades" with you on the gloomiest of days, and show the storm who is boss.


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