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Eibon : II

Eibon's Ep is brutal, unflinching stuff, presented in an uncompromising barrage that loses nothing through being executed with consummate artistry and precision.

It's been three years since the last thunderous echoes of the massive 'Path To Oblivion' closed off Eibon's debut full-length album 'Entering Darkness'. One split single (with HKY) and a joint re-release of the first EP and LP later, and the sophomore 'II' is finally ready to pick up where that epic finale left off.

We were fortunate to be joined by Jérôme and Guillaume from the band for an in-depth interview as to how the album came about (read it here), and it makes for an interesting background. Pre-written but then recorded entirely live in the studio, the two 20-odd minute tracks comprise a complementary pair based around the imagery of Otto Dix' triptych painting of the First World War, La Guerre. Released on CD by Aesthetic Death, in a sumptuously glossy mini-LP sleeve reproducing the painting's centre panel with pinpoint detail, there is also a 12" vinyl version available jointly through AD and Throatruiner Records.

You don't see 'Live - No overdubs' stuck on album covers very often these days, but it used to be something of a regular badge of honour amongst Metal bands, whether due to budgetary constraints or to an extreme confidence in the recording. Either way, it was a good indication that the resulting album would have a certain healthy vitality (or, worst case, a rough and ready rawness) about it. And while you still won't see it stuck on this very briefly-annotated cover, you can certainly hear it in the energy with which the band set about interpreting the compositions, now formalised but originally the product of largely improvisational sessions. It injects a genuine, honest warmth and spontaneity into the music, well-captured and preserved intact by the quality recording and mastering work of Sylvain Biguet and Francis Caste respectively.

Don't be fooled by talk of warmth, however: this is neither soft nor reassuring. Eibon's stock-in-trade is still darkly aggressive Sludge/Doom, given body and atmosphere through pounding riffs and distorted backgrounds, shot through occasionally with sections of Black Metal-influenced dissonance, pace and crescendo. It's brutal, unflinching stuff, presented in an uncompromising barrage that loses nothing through being executed with consummate artistry and precision - not unlike the awesomely detailed and yet viscerally, disturbingly atrocious work of Dix which inspired it. Of course, the subject material helps - in one sense, at least - it's difficult to contemplate WW1 as anything other than an association with the utterly, horrifyingly futile waste of a generation of lives. On the other hand, with such strength of feeling inherent in the subject, it is also difficult to represent it in a meaningful artistic interpretation. It isn't exactly fertile ground for extracting Doom themes (Mourning Dawn's 'For The Fallen' being one of very few such explorations), or even more general Rock (although Twelfth Night's more narrative 'Sequences' makes a valiant effort at such). However, by presenting the original picture as the point of reference, Eibon have put it into a suitable context: a stark presentation of the essence of devastation, tinged with only the faintest of distant hopes.

That is an image which they have captured with gratifying success, especially on second, more seemingly-experimental, track 'Elements Of Doom'. While 'The Void Settlers' starts off with a pounding intensity that only briefly relents to a slower but equally battering bridge into the enormous rising crescendo, the latter's hammering, harrowing centrepiece is sandwiched between an icy cold, tense introduction and a gentle, rain-drenched exit. (Some small augmentation to the musical performance has been made by samples mixed into both tracks, taken from French film "Les Croix de Bois"). Both, though, display a taut and exciting interplay between the band members, underpinned by the twinned fusillade of drums and hefty basslines, perfectly complementing the two knifing, riffing lead guitars and the blackened, bitter vocals and adding up to way more than just the simple sum of its parts. To be fair, there are a couple of moments where this risks falling into the excess histrionics that Black Metal can sometimes be guilty of, but even these successfully transition back into the main theme without undue disruption to the absorbing, apocalyptic flow.

Clearly, 'II' is an album that was made the hard way, almost old-fashioned in its purity of concept and approach. (In some ways, that calls to mind such things as classic-era Hawkwind, with their ferociously noisy studio-jam takes on well-rehearsed classics - imagine 'Brainstorm', or 'Lord Of Light' stripped of sci-fi trippiness and downtuned into ugly darkness...or maybe that's just me...!). Anyway, given the difficulties of electing both to produce the album in that fashion and the potential pitfalls of tackling the chosen material, it's simply a massive triumph that Eibon have produced a release that succeeds on all counts. Easily their best work to date, and equally easily one of the better things I've heard all year: an essential purchase, in my opinion.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. The Void Settlers
2. Elements Of Doom

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the Eibon bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-07-29 by Mike Liassides
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