|Re-listening to Elegeion's latest album to date is a pleasure: it still sounds fresh, vibrant and meaningful.
Never the most prolific of bands, 2005's 'The Last Moment' was Elegeion's second full-length release, following on from Through The Eyes Of Regret in 2001 and 1997's demo-turned-EP Odyssey Into Darkness. Following the same sort of temporal pattern, this has only recently been added to by online-only track 'Reignstorm', released through Bandcamp in 2011. To conclude the brief history lesson, despite being in existence in various forms since 1993, the Melbourne-based band never really attained general recognition and have recently relocated to the UK with the aim of raising their profile.
I namechecked early Elegeion in a review once, when trying to find a suitable comparison for a hard-to-classify guitar-led Death/Doom mix incorporating plenty of melodic, Gothic, classical and even progressive moments. It's as good a starting place as any for describing the core sound of the band. This album, particularly, exemplifies their inclusion of an eclectic mix of outside influences, whilst still remaining true to their original melancholic and atmospheric musical direction.
At the heart of that direction has always been the guitarwork of founder member and band mainstay Anthony Kwan, often painting distortion-soaked textures, but equally capable of moving effortlessly across the spectrum from acoustic ballad to brutal riffing. He also provides the male vocals: a distinctive, blackened, rasping whisper that plays off well against the clean female vocals without dipping into a stereotyped "beauty and the beast" format. Also in the studio for 'The Last Moment' were original bassist James Wallbridge, taking the drumstool, and previous guest vocalist Dieudonnee, contributing piano and vocals, along with a session cellist and violinist.
Technically, it's a well-mixed and clear production that allows all of the various instruments and voices to retain a distinct and separate identity, layered over the background fuzz of guitar where necessary. Musically, it's all about creating and maintaining a romantic, tragic atmosphere rather than remaining true to any particular genre: no matter how well-crafted the melodies and hooks, they never detract from the bleakness of the lyrical images. In terms of progression, it's a tighter, shorter production than preceding studio efforts which eschews 10-minute-plus length tracks for an average of about half that.
The album, comparatively short though it may be, covers a lot of musical ground, starting with hard-riffing 'The Last Moment', interspersed with poignant strings and ending with a soaring guitar solo. It is followed by the sparse beauty of 'Scars': a ballad by Dieudonnee, accompanied simply by piano and violin – and the inspiration for dozens of YouTube video postings. 'Solitude' is something of a throwback to previous works, with dark, mid-tempo, hypnotic riffing broken by a contrasting interlude, in this case carried by strings. Taking a somewhat incongruous change of direction, 'Taste' lays down a lilting, poppy, semi-acoustic groove before 'Heaven's Torment' throws a mixture of hard riffs and gentle choruses into the mix. 'Wallow' is another distorted, textural piece, burning slowly towards a sweetly-orchestrated lament and the album finale 'Confusion', which takes all of the above elements and brings them to a savage, hoarse conclusion.
With a fairly small body of recorded work spread over a long period of time, it's hard to say whether this album ultimately represents a direction or an experiment. It's not as outright Doom, as entirely slow-developing or heavy as its predecessors: purists may object to that, and it's quite possible to imagine that a fair proportion of listeners might reach for the Skip button when 'Taste' comes on. For all that, though, there is plenty of dark and despairing emotion lurking inside this diverse offering. Comparison-wise, it's possible to suggest a certain early- to mid-period Anathema feel to the music, but it's probably closer to the aesthetic of bands like Paragon Of Beauty or Lacrimas Profundere, both of whom evolved contemporarily with, but separately from, Elegeion.
At the time of release, 'The Last Moment' gathered mixed reviews. Personally, I loved it and revisiting it in depth now has been a pleasure: it still sounds fresh, vibrant and meaningful to me. It isn't the starting-place I'd recommend for everyone: Through The Eyes Of Regret would better suit those who prefer their music longer, heavier and more funereal - but should certainly be worth a listen for anyone who cares to spend some time wrapped in melodic, moody, atmospheric soundscaping. Even if it involves a bit of effort: sadly, the albums aren't that easy or cheap to track down these days.
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1. The Last Moment
5. Heaven's Torment
Duration : Approx. 40 minutes
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