Sound — 5
Ephel Duath is a very odd, very unique, jazzy death metal band from Italy. Formed in 1998, the band has had a flurry of lineup changes; guitarist and founder Davide Tiso has remained the only constant member. This shows through because the guitar work grabs most of the listener's attention. The band's latest lineup was formed in 2011 and includes Tiso's wife, Karyn Crisis on vocals. As I mentioned before, the guitars occupy most of the space on this album. The guitar parts are intricate, well thought out, and draw on a plethora of influences from death metal to blues. What results is a predominantly jazzy type of metal that feels very unique in sound and scope. The guitar work is truly innovative because it is not only new, but also pleasing to the ears, for the most part. In fact, some of the riffs border on catchy and some of the guitar solos are note-by-note memorable. The biggest problem with this album is its lack of support for the great guitar work. The production is average, nothing special. The drumming is certainly not boring, but it is not memorable or particularly creative, no matter how much it tries to be. There are also some very dynamic moments created by the guitar work that the drumming fails to capitalize on, ignoring the opportunity to create a unified, cerebral experience. The same can be said for the bass playing; it sounds complicated and creative, but it really doesn't add anything to the guitar parts that take center stage on this album. There are some rare moments when keyboards are present and these moments make up some of the best moments of the album. Yet, it truly feels like the guitarist is the only true band member. The guitar work cannot save this album from its spot as a below average effort. At least it has a wickedly awesome album cover. As a side note, the production of this album is not very inspiring; I wonder what its impact could have been on the album if it was improved a little. It's not deathly awful or anything like that, but there is just so much more that could have been done with it. There isn't really much else to say about this album in terms of its sound. Ephel Duath tries so hard to sound unique and interesting that the attempted effect never reaches the listener. To put it another way, when an album like this is indescribable, there is a problem. Still, the guitar work keeps the album together enough for its sound to earn a 5/10 rating.
Lyrics — 6
Vocally, almost the entire album is dominated by a raspy, death metal type character. It feels as if the character is wailing from the mental ward of a jail during a long sentence that has made him go mad. This type of persona always interests me but it quickly wears out its welcome. The vocals would really benefit from some more variation, either in delivery or production, and it's a shame that they leave so much to be desired. Again, the raspy man persona has the ability to be used effectively, but this album's heavy reliance on it is too much to bear. Lyrically, the album, though the rest of the album doesn't incline me to care, is actually pretty interesting. The album's lyrics/story certainly take the cake on the vocal front.
Overall Impression — 4
Overall, this album suffers from the sickness of trying too hard (in terms of the songwriting) yet also from the plague of not trying hard enough (in terms of the production). This review may seem a bit bipolar in the way that it contrasts the guitar work to the album in general. Honestly though, the luster of the guitar work fades after a bit because it doesn't have anything solid to fall back on. So (I hope this does not add to the confusion), the guitar work is great, sometimes bordering on ingenious, but it cannot break the fall of the rest of the album. If you want to hear how the whole album could've been had Ephel Duath been a little more "focused," shall we say, you should listen to the album's opening track, "Feathers Under My Skin."