Fractured in the Timeless Abyss
posted on 7/2012 By:
It must have been fate that MetalReview’s own Chris McDonald asked me to review his band Ectovoid’s debut, Fractured in the Timeless Abyss, during a time when I was trapped in my own sort of timeless abyss. I have spent the past two weeks working in basements, and while the first job offered a welcome respite from the oppressive heat, the second was decidedly less pleasant. Charged with demolishing the ceiling in a poorly lit subterranean shithole, I stumbled over rubble, choking, even through a dust mask, on the fetid miasma of half a century’s worth of urban decay. With, at times, the sparks from an angle grinder cutting through rusted steel as my only source of light, I prayed to a god I do not believe in that I would not drop several hundred pounds of concrete on my woefully under-protected head. After a while this job began to haunt me, so that even in my dreams I was fumbling in the half-light, untangling extension cords from twisted rebar to the din of a roaring Sawzall and the screech of shearing metal.
As I stood in the shower at the end of this trying week, admiring some spectacularly colored bruises and a couple promising prospects for my scar collection, while the filth ran off me and down the drain in a black stream, I came to some conclusions: First, it is way past time that I got a fucking hard hat. Second, we humans are creatures of the light. Though we are driven to plumb the depths of darkness, be it the ocean, the bowels of the earth, the vacuum of space or some other timeless abyss, If we are lucky enough to emerge at all from these excursions and walk again in the sunlight, we emerge not unscathed. The darkness marks us. Though the dirt, the salt, the sweat and the blood might wash off, our minds are not so easily cleansed. Fractured in the Timeless Abyss is a sonic reminder of this: it is dark, it is oppressive, it is haunting, and it is unclean.
Though Fractured in the Timeless Abyss is a perfectly fitting title for Ectovoid’s debut, I have my own pet name for it: Under a Mental Funeral Moon. I refer to it so because Ectovoid’s sound brings to mind both Autopsy’s filthy, doomy death metal and Darkthrone’s demonically melodic and ravishingly grim black metal. It would, however, be a disservice to Ectovoid to paint them as merely the sum of these two influences. The band blends death and black metal in such a seamless way that the sound is truly nothing but its own.
Ectovoid draws from a primarily death metal sonic palette: deep, growled vocals, thick, down-tuned guitars, etc., but its song structures are more of a compound style. Heavy grooves, muscular riffing and guitar solos evoke death metal, but pervasive use of tremolo picking, angular melodies and an emphasis on atmosphere point to black metal.
The warm, slightly muddy guitar sound on Fractured in the Timeless Abyss lacks the grating abrasiveness generally associated with black metal, while McDonald’s drums, being somewhat buried in the mix, lack the sharp rhythmic punctuation common to death metal. With the edges thus rounded off the band's sound, the smoothly flowing compositions have a soothing hypnotic feel to them that lures you into their darkness. It’s a trap, of course, because once you enter the abyss, the darkness clings to you like quicksand, and riff-horrors both phantasmal and visceral tear at your flesh and burrow into your mind.
Among the tracks on Fractured in the Timeless Abyss that cast the longest shadows is opener “Transcend into Moonless Night”. “Transcend” showcases Ectovoid at its most energetic, as the song courses through ever-shifting up-tempo grooves, with a few brief spasms of doom/death bludgeoning. “Chewing Through the Membranes of Time” is another standout with an insidiously catchy main riff and a pair of superbly constructed interludes -- the first is another doom/death breakdown, but the second features some surprisingly clean (or nearly so) guitar, picking out an almost delicate melody. Finally, there is “Emanating Spectral Vapor”, which sounds like a bridge between Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey and A Blaze in the Northern Sky.
Ectovoid’s artful merging of old-school death metal and old-school black metal has made Fractured in the Timeless Abyss an album capable of ensnaring fans of both styles in its spectral tendrils. Even those jaded by the onslaught of old-school retreads might find enough of interest to be coaxed into Ectovoid’s timeless abyss. Whether they emerge whole is another matter.
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