over the last few years, all of my favourite 'loud' bands have tanked. most recent albums from 'such luminaries' (wevertf that means) as the locust, dillinger escape plan, and ephel duath left me cold, so, so cold. so i'm going back now and looking at these others, and seeing if i can at least try and appreciate what they were trying to do, if not actually like the music.
so: ephel duath.
I remember exactly where i was when i first heard ephel duath's 'the passage': at my dad's, playing with my half sister, listening to an earache records compilation, possibly 'extremity experiment' i'd picked up on the front of a magazine. dillinger escape plan's 'monticello' from their first e.p. had just been on, which had slightly disappointed me; and then there was this quiet guitar intro, awkward harmonies and timing, and then that eruption of distortion and hot trumpet playing, seguing into break-metal paradise: it was the song i had always wanted to hear. I got hold of the album, 'the painter's pallette', as quick as i could; it did exactly what an album with 'the passage' as an opening track should have done. and with every album, they were doing something entirely different, with a swiftly rotating line up.
[well not really rotating; they started as a synthonic black metal two piece; one left, and davide tiso got in a full band: drum, bass, two vocalists, plus guest electronics and trumpet/trombone. clean vocalist left and was not replaced; bassist left and was not replaced; drummers came and went. when the growly vocalist finally quit after 'through my dog's eyes', davide packed the band in. he started playing with karyn crisis, and formed another 2-piece (parched) who recorded an album of ambient guitar.]
so after the painter's pallette, came the immensely satisfying and progressive 'pain necessary to know' and it's companion record 'pain remixes the known'. then: 'through my dog's eyes', which i have listened to all the way through maybe only twice.
it's a bluesy, grungey mess of an album that doesn't have any memorable parts until the the third act opener, 'guardian'. 'pain...' was a very difficult album, with very few discernible riffs, but what makes it a difficult, labyrinthine listen at first is what made it eventually become in my top two favourite albums of all time, alongside gorky's' 'bwyd time'. while '...dog's eyes' also feels riff-free, but not in a good way; just clanging chords without respite or much dynamic range.
rather than the usual lyrical approach of opaque mystery (one t-shirt proclaimed the passage's refrain, "are you coming to poison my remarks?"), 'dog's eyes' takes its subject matter, as the title suggests from davide tiso's beloved hound, who added insult to injury by dying soon after the release of the album, adding to his personal crisis with record companies and loss of his band, culminating in his moving from italy to america. so the album has some quite legible sequences, all from the dog's perspective: "i'm wagging my tail so hard, my whole body seems to be dancing; I wonder if he knows i'm trying to imitate his face?". it's certainly brave... but... like the rest of the record it kind of falls flat, a directionless, uncaptivating ramble. you can't tell where one song stops and the other starts, and not in a good way. i think that kind of sums up the album; all the things that are usually so great about the duath fall flat here. there doesn't seem to be any substance beneath the noise. every so often, a vocal refrain or hook might emerge, but the underlying guitars just carry on with their detuned sludgery. maybe part of the problem is the huge number of guitar overdubs here - there are so many guitar sounds at any one time - slide guitar, various shades of distortion and chorus-clean, at any one time. other than this army of overdubs, one track has a wierd sax improv, another has synths added, and the finale has glitchy drums courtesy of dillinger escape plan's ben wienman. there's a nice mellow moment - very reminiscent of later work with parched - at the start of spider shaped leaves, which should probably have been plonked halfway through the record rather than towards the end.
davide tiso always hated the 'jazz-metal' label that was attached to his band, but at least it was somewhat accurate. but there's no jazz here, and i use the term jazz very loosely indeed, basically as far as including everything interesting. listening to this again as i write this up, i have been getting more out of it, but it's a struggle. it's hard to dis such a brave musician, but i still just don't find the music on this one interesting. there seems to be too much going on, and also at the same time, not enough really happening.
despite this, the recent announcement that tiso is forming a new one-man band (makes me wonder why he doesn't stick with the ephel duath moniker, since he's now the sole member, or his davide tiso moniker that he went under on the 'better undead than alive 2' compilation) called manuscripts don't burn, out of studio outtakes from his sessions with karyn crisis, is great news. he's even gone all twittery to promote it.