Friday, September 21, 2007

Elysian Blaze - Levitating the Carnal

Elysian Blaze is a one-man black/funeral doom metal band hailing from Victoria. When you hear funeral doom in a genre description, you generally expect slow, trudging tempos with very little emphasis on technical song-writing and more on 'atmosphere'. While Elysian Blaze is a very atmospheric band, the song writing is well thought out and the music is quite up tempo, bordering straight out black metal in speed in places, making Elysian Blaze not a blackened funeral doom band but a black metal band with funeral doom elements.

The atmosphere is what really gets me into this. The reverb used makes the albums sound cavernous, especially when used on the vocals and drums. The imagery and aesthetic, combined with the music, creates dark, majestic atmosphere, conjuring up mental images of ancient cathedrals and halls. It's very soothing and beautiful, once you're into the album. Repetition is very frequently used throughout the album. I never find this boring or tedious, I just feel very mind-numbed, and don't notice how good the album is until I've finished listening and find myself thinking, 'wow, that album fucking ruled'. The entire album is very ambiental in the way guitars and synths work equally together. Production, though nowhere near professional studio quality, is good, murky but still clear enough to allow you distinguish all the instruments at work.

The guitars and synths form the backbone of the music here. Rather than the guitar being drowned out by the synths or visca-versa, they are used equally, effectively making both instruments and ambient backdrop as much as the focus of the music, blurring the line between guitar and synth. This leaves little room for any memorable riffs. The only riff that stood out was the opening riff for 'Macabre be thy Blood', a slow, menacing riff complemented by simple tinkling on the piano, which, by the way, is used quite effectively and to compliment riffs and drumming. The piano is used pretty much throughout all the songs, particularly on the track 'Eclipse', filling in spaces between cymbal hits to form the flow of the song. The vocals are excellent, a really raspy growl-scream, not annoyingly high pitched. In quite a few of the songs, the vocals are often sparsely used, resulting in brilliant instrumental work and creating a hypnotic mood. Drums are pushed back quite a bit in the mix, and the kit itslef is rather minimalistic, with only the various cymbals, snare and bass. Cymbals make up the rhythm of the music and drumming, with snares thrown in the slower to mid-paced sections, and bass drum rolls used excessively in the faster parts, and plodding along in the slower parts. There are a lot of ambient interludes played on synths and pianos/keys, like the droning pulse before the demonic vocals kick in on 'Macabre be thy Blood', as well as intros and outros, like the leads up to 'Beyond the Shape of Mortality' very dark, subtle and slow shifting, to the majestic choir from the outro of the title track. They get rather tedious during a casual listen, but if you put this on in the background or are really relaxed, they are very soothing and provide some respite and variation from the guitar/synth duo.

To be honest, at a casual listen the band seems like a generic depressive BM band; ambient interludes, excessive synths, even ambient intro and outro songs. But give it a chance, it's a cut above the rest of all the other suicidal BM bands out there, with subtly unique imagery, if not a slightly typical aesthetic dealing with death, nature, suicide and the like. A very promising release from an upcoming Australian band. If you completety detest any kind of 'depressive' black metal, then stay away, but if you can get past the typical suicidal BM elements, there's a brilliant album to be found here.

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