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Ethereal Darkness - Smoke and Shadows Award winner

Ethereal Darkness
Smoke and Shadows
by Justin "Witty City' Wittenmeier at 09 June 2019, 8:36 AM

The crushing and suffocating sulphur of Doom mixes so well with the atmospheric fringes of Melodic Death Metal.  Belgium’s ETHEREAL DARKNESS take the elements of each sub-genre to heart in such a serious and dynamic way that fans of MDM and Doom will encounter an epic journey for their senses, even if a fan doesn’t like but one of the styles.

This album is written and played with such care, devotion and attention to detail that I doubt anyone will believe that “Smoke and Shadows” is ETHEREAL DARKNESS’ debut release and that one man, going by Lars, played every instrument and growled every lyric.  Most bands require a full room of people to get a sound like this, one that just drips atmosphere and takes you places you didn’t even know you wanted to go.

The overall sound is very atmospheric but not in a spacey or ambient way—the atmosphere rides upon wonderful and complex melodies and harmonies that weave in and out between the compositions.  I would be highly surprised if Lars wasn’t a fan of anything involving TUOMAS SAUKKONEN, especially his BLACK SUN AEON and BEFORE THE DAWN projects as those are the two bands that really come to mind for ETHEREAL DARKNESS’ influences.  I also hear some elements of INSOMNIUM as well but with way more emphasis on stretching out the atmosphere.

Lars’ vocals range from a hoarse whisper to deep growls and even some blackened screams.  His opening vocal moments on “The Dreaming Soul,” are really impressive; he nails the ability to create a throaty, heavy growl while still making it work well with the slower, melodic music. The album works best when there are just tons of melodies going on while he growls or screams his ass off.  It gives the music a chaotic feel, but the melancholic tempo keeps it from being over bearing.  With that being said, the songs are not very riff based—everything revolves around the lead guitar’s melodies.  The rhythm aspect of the album, the actual riffs, are lost in the sometimes too busy production (the lead guitar is often times too loud) and it just isn’t as interesting as everything most of the time.  Still, the riffs do find some time to shine. At the 3:44 mark on “Forgotten Shadows,” a pretty slick riffs crawls its way out from under the atmospheric layers—I wish the album did this more often.  The album could also do with better representation of bass guitar, which is so buried among everything going on that is a strain to pick out of the mix. However, everything else about the album, the very focal points of it, are so well done that it is hard to complain about anything.

The Light That Fades,” is one of the best tracks and also one of the best examples of the style I could ever recommend to someone. The beginning blossoms open with a catchy lead melody line and light use of clean keys.  When that crunchy riffs backs it all up, accompanied by the death growls the song turns into sublime Melodic Death Doom Metal. At the 2:19 mark, the band shows how to correctly incorporate sparse, ambient textures to let the space in between speak volumes. “Shrouded In Mourning,” opening three and a half minutes are a frightening combination of sorrow and beauty, a little journey into loss and, perhaps, even the hope that can be found within.  The song picks up before the end, an epic crescendo of extreme double bass and whirling distorted guitars.

The last track, “Flow Into The Sea,” is over ten minutes in length and, wow, what a journey it takes the listener on.  Like the title would suggest, this song is a constant force of motion where each part flows effortlessly together towards a larger ending. I especially liked that ending because the Lars settles into the perfect groove of melody, riffs, drums, vocals…just everything comes together for one hell of a finish to an already strong album.

ETHEREAL DARKNESS and their debut “Smoke And Shadows,” is an album that can take you on a journey to not only other worlds but to the hidden one with yourself.  For a debut album, this one is impressive as hell and I hope to hear more from the band in the future.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Rivers
2. The Dreaming Soul
3. Forgotten Shadows
4. The Light That Fades
5. Apocalypse In Your Mind
6. Shrouded In Mourning
7. Time
8. Flow Into The Sea
Lars – Everything
Record Label: Independent


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