Ways Of Descention
posted on 6/2010 By:
Nothing--and I mean nothing--will kill an album quicker than a lackluster vocal performance. That's not to say we haven't given out our share of passports; every death metal fan on the planet has uttered things like, "well, the vocals aren't the centerpiece of the music," and, "they're really just another percussive device." But, usually, we make these claims when trying to trick pop-loving philistines into appreciating the nuances of our beloved brutality. We can bend truths to suit our persuasive desires, but we can't lie to ourselves. And with the glut of quality material at our fingertips, why should we?
Which brings us to the matter at hand: Ecnephias' Ways of Descention. As a melodramatic, slightly vampirical goth-metal record, this thing oozes with intrigue. Gloom-swept and cavernous, there's little doubt that Ecnephias nailed their vibe. On a personal level. Musically. Dark and deliberate guitar and drum interplay combines with campy--but wholly at-home--keyboard atmospherics that recall a time in the mid 1990's when Moonspell and Cradle of Filth were at their creative peaks. That "deviant-clergyman-lurking-in-a-misty-graveyard" demographic still exists--somewhere--and Ecnephias would've come pretty damn close to captivating it...if someone in the band had stepped up and put a goddamn lid on these cack-awful harsh vocals.
Opener "Secrets of the Black Priest" wastes little time in falling victim to this unfortunate hackjob. The half-black, half-death, all-fucking-wrong barkgargling that rears its head at the two-minute mark grinds any initial excitement to a halt, and the band's otherwise impressive symphonic, slow blackness (the track continues for upwards of six minutes) is irreversibly marred. "Twist of Personality" turns up the tempo--somewhat awkwardly--and is persistently slathered with these amatuerishly delivered, horrifically arranged vocal atrocities. It can't be stressed enough: this otherwise professional effort is rendered completely absurd by their presence.
And this is a shame, because Ways of Descention sporadically showcases some stellar ideas. While clunky disasters like "Empty Cold Veins" and "A Strange Painting" have little redeeming value, the tracks in which clean, pseudo-operatic vocals achieve prominence (closer "Il Nostro Patto," for example) show significant promise. That Moonspell influence is very prominent in these instances, and it's often-times combined with some subtle, Tales From the Thousand Lakes-styled lead work. As a child of the 90's, these homages can be comforting, but also quite troublesome. It's a killer sound, undoubtedly, but it's also a startling indictment of Ecnephias' relevance--or lack thereof. If your most compelling passages have been culled from bands that had mastered this type of thing back in 1995--and your vocalist sucks total ass roughly 82% of the time--the numbers aren't exactly stacked in your favor. Until some crucial aspects of Ecnephias' cape-donning, fang-bearing and fog-machining are shored up, they have no business presenting this as straight-faced and bootlaced. Too often, Ways of Descention veers into the realm of unintentional parody.
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