Dawn of a Dark Age - _The Six Elements, vol. 1: Earth_
(Independent, 2014)
by: Dan Lake (6.5 out of 10)
Get a load of this gristly mouthful: in mid-June, we get notification about an Italian band that turned on the lights not six months ago, and already they're releasing a 36-minute album of highly conceptualized extreme music that springs from the rawest of black metal but includes along the way acoustic and hauntingly clean electric guitar, piano, alto -and- baritone saxophone, and a goddamn motherfucking clarinet. If the above fact potpourri hasn't yet tripped your hypersensitive bullshit alarm... well, something's seriously wrong and you need to get that fixed ASAP; but there's more. The title of this debut record is _The Six Elements, vol. 1: Earth_ and is only the first of (you guessed it) six installments of six songs each that the band intends to issue at six month intervals (wait, whose number is that?) between now and the summer of 2017. Oh, and the human impetus behind the project calls himself Eurynomos. (Now I'm trying to remember where I've heard something like that before...)

You got all that? Maybe you need to take a few minutes to reread and really soak it in. If you haven't noticed, your bullshit alarm just flipped you a red-faced emphatic double bird and left you for someone who's actually serious about metal.

Of course, with every warning bell smashing itself to scraps, I had to listen to it. And damned if it isn't compelling as hell. Sometimes it's every inch the mess that you imagine it is. Sometimes, though, it's a captivating arrangement of brash creativity and audacious overreaching that actually snags what it's reaching for. For that reason alone, I highly recommend you suspend disbelief for long enough to give _Earth_ a chance, and maybe even keep an eye (and ear) out for the forthcoming element-centered episodes.

"Cold Winter" entices immediately with its cyclical drum intro and mounting piano accompaniment, but after only thirty seconds it drops into a frosty lo-fi bash 'n' scream that feels completely incongruous with even the recording quality of the introduction and lacks any semblance of transition. It's an unnerving beginning, but the promotional blurb did promise the black metal would be "raw", and "Cold Winter" delivers that m.o. to the icy tee. Plus, it's not like the song becomes a one-trick undead pony thereafter. Eurynomos composes passages that provide an emotional ebb and flow through his chilling, raspy landscape, and there's even some death chugging deep in the song's center right before some classical acoustic picking overtop what sounds like Wrest carving GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD into his own flesh with the brittle edge of a broken _Tenth Sublevel of Suicide_ CD. Ignore the sudden initial disappointment; for cold and bitter black metal, this sounds good so far.

"The Last Prayer" suffers from a bit of oddly-timed percussion written into its more expansive moments -- again there's that jarring impression of clashing sensibilities, not actually bad but certainly uncomfortable -- but a funereal midsection turns that minor discontent on its head. At some point, the clarinet steals the lead from the guitar and turns the remaining minutes into a bit of a "Sunrise, Sunset" affair; the warmth of the instrument again contrasts awkwardly with the hissing gale-o'er-the-peaks vibe of the heavy parts.

The instrumental "Raped Earth" inverts the other tracks' metal aggression into a more-or-less stately procession, later allowing a channel-shifting saxophone to skronk ill-fittingly through the end of the song. "Eurynomos Army" jams down the fast forward button on the lead from "Raped Earth" and opens the way for some late piano accents. The band's eponymous song provides perhaps the album's most focused section, opening with gusty effects roiling through a menacing whisper and a shadowy keys-n-sax pairing before an inexorable march toward darkness that almost effortlessly weaves together the dirge-cum-black-thrash and woodwind threads that seemed poised to implode earlier parts of the record. The planetarium-ripe mysticism that powers "Outro" adds yet another flavor to _Earth_'s already diverse palette, and the album ends in the same echoing drum circle where it began.

Sorry for my verbosity. Consider this not so much a review as a letter, from me to you, in defense of possibly the silliest accumulation of ideas in metal this year. Maybe it's not worth your hard drive space, but it's sure as hell worth just a half-hour of your attention. Sincerely, Fucknuts MacWhaddoiknow.

Contact: https://it-it.facebook.com/dawnofadarkage

(article published 7/7/2014)

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