Evoken - _Antithesis of Light_
(Avantgarde Music, 2005)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
Finally, after four years, Evoken have unleashed the follow-up to their superb _Quietus_, which still stands in my books as the best slab of doom metal to see the bleak light of day since the turn of the century. Not only that, but _Embrace the Emptiness_ (their debut full-length) also had a major impact on my musical world back in 1998. I think I'll just skip the bit where I describe my huge anticipation of this album and all the expectations that come with it; you already know the drill.

First track proper "In Solitary Ruin" pushes you down a steep, damp, claustrophobic tunnel into an isolated hole beneath the ground. There you will remain, gasping for air and sunlight, all the way through the album; for each succeeding track is but another immeasurably heavy shovel of soil added to your shroud of earth. All exaggeration aside, _Antithesis of Light_ leaves no room for doubt: Evoken refuse not only to compromise the oppression of their funeral doom, but also to be reduced most of the time to simplistic, plodding guitars drenched in distortion in order to achieve that purpose. Be it through a sombre cello, clear strings that carry all the grief of a knell, sprinklings of keyboard or an extra guitar line, Evoken often add various elements to their crushing guitars, ponderous drums and guttural vocals. Rather than futile attempts at embellishment, these elements only enhance the emotions and atmosphere their music communicates to the listener; they sing Evoken's sorrowful song together with the other instruments as a cohesive unit. The guitar solo on "The Mournful Refusal" does push the envelope a bit, but that's just about all; and the piano at the end of that track more than makes up for it. The title track contains possibly the widest array of elements on the album, and the result is both downright heartbreaking and fully consistent. There is still plenty of those plodding guitars drenched in distortion to be found, mind; but Evoken by no means rely on them to the point of boredom.

For all its various musical elements, one thing I certainly did not expect to find in this album was a blastbeat. Yet only a few minutes into the aforementioned opening track "In Solitary Ruin", there it is: not just a somewhat faster passage, but a real blastbeat (at least by doom metal's standards). But consider this: the drums are actually the only component of the music that speeds up during this section. Very interesting. Unfortunately, said drums end up sounding rather blurry in the process due to some debatable production decisions; more on that later.

Every one of the album's six tracks (not counting the intro) passes the ten minute mark, which, in case you are not familiar with Evoken, should give you a reasonable idea of what sort of compositions are on offer. Each track has its own distinctive characteristics and passages, encompassing different approaches in a number of ways while remaining fully coherent. It can be argued that given its nature and length, _Antithesis of Light_ is a hard album to take in as a whole. But why should it be easy or pleasant? This is not music to be played casually or in the background; this is extreme doom metal at its best, requiring your undivided attention and a suitable frame of mind.

Finding the best compromise between clarity and heaviness is not an easy task when you play this type of music, and as hinted earlier I found the production slightly disappointing. The drums could have sounded a bit more powerful and natural, and one always tends to think the guitars could have been even more crushing; but it is difficult to imagine how this would affect the overall balance. Ultimately, at the right volume the sound comes together quite well, powerful enough while retaining sufficient clarity.

Perhaps only time will tell if _Quietus_ will retain its crown as the main landmark in Evoken's career, but in my case _Antithesis of Light_ did not affect me on quite the same level as its predecessor. Timing and various other circumstances also come into play however, so this doesn't make it any less of an excellent album in its own right -- to the extent that _Antithesis of Light_ seems bound to be the best funeral doom metal album of 2005.

[Todd DePalma: "There is a Sufi aphorism which states "When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found". The third Evoken album continues to plumb different aspects of release and horror that occur when we slough the flesh. Although the production is not quite as thick compared to _Quietus_ and the drums tend to become indistinct with the slightest flash of speed, there remains an enveloping power in sound and concept. With a smirking assurance of annihilation, vocals crumble the shell of existence as the ruins of sanctuary are swept away by the guitar. As always, the keyboards provide the final touch to Evoken's atmosphere and the addition of keyboardist Denny Hahn results in some of the most evocative and tenebrist pieces they've written thus far. A doom masterwork of coherent imagination that disconnects man and earth from umbilical track of gravity leading toward the sun; held hostage to the baleful echo within."]

Contact: http://www.evoken.com

(article published 26/4/2005)

4/12/2002 P Azevedo Evoken: Tending the Dire Hatred
8/13/2012 J Carbon 7 Evoken - Atra Mors
6/13/2008 Q Kalis 8.5 Evoken - A Caress of the Void
3/13/2001 A McKay 8.5 Evoken - Quietus
2/13/1999 A Cantwell 8.5 Evoken - Embrace the Emptiness
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