Ephel Duath – Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness

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Review by Jason Guest

Agonia Records

Sometime around 2009, after their sixth album In My Dogs Eyes, Italy’s Ephel Duath ceased to be. Having made some of the most indescribable, unpredictable, and – dare I say – advanced music since their inception in 1998, this was a serious blow to fans of bands that pay no mind to anything other than musical exploration and pure self expression. Come 2012 and mainman David Tiso decided to resurrect the band and with the aid of vocalist Karyn Crisis (of death/thrash band Crisis), bassist Steve di Giorgio (of Death, Autopsy, Testament, Soen, and many others), and drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann, released the On Death and Cosmos EP. A welcome return, it saw Tiso and co. returning to the non-structure material as on 2005’s Pain Necessary To Know and experimenting with longer and slower but no less intense tracks. Serving to indicate the direction that the band would take with future releases, here we are in 2013 with their latest album, Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness.

As eccentric as any one of their releases, the album delivers more of the slow, heay, and excruciatingly intense material that the 2012 EP demonstrated. There is nothing here that could be considered “normal”. Tiso’s guitar lines wind around, tear at, and collide with each other to create a dense, intricate, and distinctive soundscape heaving with as much emotional weight as they do intelligent design. Minnemann’s drum lines are exquisite, playing a more decorative than rhythmic role, his time-signature defying pulses adding shade and colour to the dynamics inherent in Tiso’s rich and resonant compositions. Crisis does an excellent job of matching her vocal delivery to the rawness of the lyrics and the mass of the music. And with bassist Bryan Beller (of Steve Vai, Mike Kenneally Band, and Dethklok amongst others) to round out the bottom end with his incredible blend of melody, rhythm, and innovation, the unit that is Ephel Duath is simply outstanding.

Jazz-meets-avant-garde-meets-unfeasibly-heavy in eight tracks that could come from nowhere else except the hand of mainman Tiso. The musicians he has chosen to render his musical vision flesh have done a masterful job of serving the music rather than guide or attempt to dominate it. Tiso’s vision has always been a unique and challenging one and here it is no less. Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness will be a challenge to most. But that’s what music and musicians – artists – should do. While the slow tempos that dominate the album may be too much for some, there is much to be found in the album’s many complexities. An album that has much to give, take your time and take all it has to offer.

Ephel Duath – Hemmed By Light Shaped By Darkness8 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Feathers Under My Skin
  2. Tracing The Path Of Blood
  3. When Mind Escapes Flesh
  4. Within This Soil
  5. Those Gates To Nothing
  6. Through Flames I Shield
  7. Hemmed By Light
  8. Shaped By Darkness