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Enoch : Sumerian Chants

Unusual, interesting, and certainly different: maybe a little too strange to meet universal approval, but full of creativity and innovation.

A long time ago, now - 2002, in fact - Enoch released their debut 'Enuma Elish La Nabu Shamu', and were somewhat surprised to find they had acquired a Funeral Doom label (the band history here makes for an interesting read on the subject). Follow-up 'Tetragrammaton', in 2004, more-or-less flopped and left the band very much in the wilderness, until a recent deal with Satanath Records to release this third full-length.

Rather like the band themselves, I'm not really sure how to classify 'Sumerian Chants', so - lazy as that may be - I'm going to label it 'Undefined'. Or maybe just 'Italian', which isn't entirely flippant: there are a long list of bands, particularly from the area around Milan, which have managed to carve out their own genre-defying but still Doom-influenced sound. Indeed, Enoch was founded by an ex-member of one - Ras Algethi - and current members participated in another,Rostau.

What I can be sure about is that the fascination with Babylonian/Sumerian mythology has obviously continued, which might suggest some form of 'occult rock', but is actually far from the popular retro-doom of that movement. It's simply obscure and antiquarian subject material, evidently of interest to the band, being re-told in a musical cycle, the format of which is surprisingly effective at tackling the grandeur of such legends.

The band acknowledge both Darkthrone and Celtic Frost as influences, and both can be heard, to an extent, in the guitarwork, the occasional frantic passages of drumming and some of the rasping vocals. Unlike either band, though, Enoch incorporate keyboard as a central and iconic voice in their music. It's an almost completely dissonant and seemingly-chaotic combination - airy, frequently orchestral, melodies set against slow, blackened, chugging or churning riffs, mixed in with clean vocals and rasped growls - and yet it works. It is a little unfortunate that the drums are programmed, and occasionally too weak to really stand the pace asked of them, but despite that they mostly get by without being too obtrusive. And, at times, it actually adds an old-school lo-fi Black Metal feel to proceedings.

There are plenty of surprises to be found lurking within: the creepily-atmospheric opening invocation 'Call Me By My Dream Name', the punchy female guest vocal in 'The Sleepless King...', the staccato ending to 'Pazuzu', the mournful and cruel elegy 'I Made An Angel Fall'. In between, each track twists and turns through passages that range from slow and majestic to fast and aggressive, all characterised by the contrast between clean, undistorted guitar and keyboard. None of them are particularly long, which makes the deft, unforced-sounding switching of tempo and feel quite an achievement - it could have easily have ended up messy and undisciplined, but actually maintains an intriguing tightness. In overall feel, if not in sound, the result reminds me of the excellent - but significantly more Gothic - Mekigah's debut, based around the Eden myth.

The CD is distributed by many labels, including Solitude Productions, and it comes with an informative booklet, including all the lyrics - although many of them are actually clearly audible on the album - with striking graphics laid out by Mauro Berchi, of Canaan fame. It also comes with an intentionally somewhat-raw production that emphasises the distant roots of the band's favoured influences.

And what to make of it, in summary? Unusual, interesting, and certainly different: the sort of inventive project from the land of the Renaissance that instinctively appeals to me. That makes it a little difficult to be truly objective: I can imagine that it would be a little too strange to meet universal approval, but can't really imagine not liking it myself. I do think it needs a human drummer to really complete the sound and complement the rest of the musicianship, but there's still enough creativity and innovation to warrant a "very good, but definitely try before you buy".

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Call Me By My Dream Name
2. The Tragic Defeat Of Dur Untash (The Third Vision Of Assurbanipal, Last King Of Assyria)
3. Black Night Over Unfigured Distances
4. Blood For The Blood God (And Skulls For The Skull Throne)
5. The Sleepless King, A Curse On Uruk
6. The Land Of Enoch
7. Pazuzu (Son Of The King Of The Evil Spirits)
8. I Made An Angel Fall

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the Enoch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-05-02 by Mike Liassides
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