Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio
posted on 1/2010 By:
Enochian Theory are an enigmatic bunch. They prefer to leave their art open to interpretation – everything from the band name to the lyrics and concept behind their new album. Fittingly, Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio, the Brits’ third offering and first long player, is like one of those optical illusions in art in which a narrow perspective finds a couple of people at a table or a woman sitting in front of a mirror, while a wider aperture reveals a skull. Whether one focuses on the details or the bigger picture often determines what one will bring from it. Familiarity allows these perspectives to overlap until each is seen to complement the other, resulting in a richer, more fulfilling experience than before.
Depending on the frame of reference employed, descriptions of Enochian Theory’s music usually begin with Porcupine Tree or Opeth, including the obligatory extended reference to Pink Floyd. Truth is, while these are broadly accurate, there is a whole lot else going on here. In struggling with my own version of the drop-a-name game, I decided that the sound of Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio can best be summed as a nebulous intersection of Anathema and Isis. Or maybe Katatonia and Mouth of the Architect. In any case, the idea is that Enochian Theory mix light and heavy – or, more to the point, clean, alt-flavored atmospherics with those of the fuzzy, sludgy variety – with a progressive flair that achieves a blending of musical approaches rather than a patchwork. In fact, the array of sounds presented here implies a full spectrum, from cold ambience and contemplative orchestral interludes to alternative rock and post-metal. Hell, there’s even a splash of death metal here and there. Sometimes the band work in so many different sonic allusions that it can be hard to believe it works. But it does.
“Apathia” is probably the best example, as it calls on the post-metal contrasts of Isis and the deep, bendy tones of Tool before setting alight with ethereal guitar melody that very nearly reaches the heights of Blut aus Nord’s. It closes with suspenseful orchestration layered over some simple riffing that would be at home on any of Enslaved’s last few albums. Now, keep in mind I’m talking about general comparisons within mere pieces of a four minute song here. I do this mainly to illustrate Enochian Theory’s ability to meld apparently disparate elements into a compelling, cohesive whole, but also to let metal fans know that there is plenty to quell the need for heaviness amidst the alt- and prog rock.
There are some aspects of Evolution that will present some difficulty for some listeners. There is an understated experimental attitude at work, particularly in the rhythms, which may take a while to settle in. As a counterbalance, there is also a variety of strategically placed ambient passages, which means more sparsely populated minutes than some listeners can abide. And the vocals are mostly mid- to high-range cleans with a tight vibrato, a style that I’ve found many people like to complain about. They’re also often at least a little off key. This is usually a real turn off for me but the more I listen, the more I've come to appreciate in them a sort of affective candor attributable in large part to their unpolished nature. The heavier pieces utilize gruffer, post-y vocals, as well, which are generally nondescript, though they serve their purpose in these songs just fine.
Context and expectations play important roles in how one perceives a piece of art, which brings me to my last points on Evolution. This is what an old friend of mine used to refer to as a bean bag album, meaning just that it effects its greatest impact when experienced as a whole, on quality equipment (preferably good headphones), and on some really comfortable furniture. Given this scenario and a little time, I believe anybody drawn to the elements described above will find much reward in both the grand design and the finer details of Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio.
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