Erimha - _Irkalla_
(Independent, 2011)
by: Dan Lake (7.5 out of 10)
_Irkalla_ is good. Pretty great, actually. It blasts. It haunts. It croons. It breaks faces. _Irkalla_ makes me want to shake my rump and bang my head and raise whole crates of invisible frostbitten Quebecois oranges. It makes me want to wear corpse paint to work on a daily basis. Erimha strike a triumphant three-way balance, drawing almost equally from death metal aggression, black metal bleakitude, and gothic rock -- the latter of which injects a little of the oft-neglected human touch into _Irkalla_'s terrific firestorm. In fact, this particular combo of qualities, along with some of the raw-throat barking (one of several vocal styles on offer), aligns Erimha closely with Mediterranean brethren Rotting Christ. And like Rotting Christ, Erimha also turn to historical mythologies for inspiration; of course, being Canadian, they can't own the Babylonian thing quite so completely. Listen to _Irkalla_, though, and you might be fooled.

Maybe album intro tracks have become quaint and obvious, but Erimha use theirs spectacularly to build curiosity and ratchet expectations -- I could listen to that Neurosis-style homage to drum circles far longer than the brief minute it lasts. From there, it's all thundering beats, gorgeous leads, and vicious denunciations of humanity's self-induced doom, everything gleaming with a clarity that would make prog fans weep. You already know what to expect once the album gets going, and herein lies the only complaint with _Irkalla_. Its tight adherence to sounds by other artists in other locales positions Erimha firmly within the jostling pack of very solid bands. The band relies so much on familiar musical and emotional territory that the moments of restrained sorrow in "The Sign of Chaos" and "The Legend of Ereshkigal" are tough to distinguish even after repeated spins. These songs could only spring from smart songwriters and competent players, but there is little on _Irkalla_ to propel Erimha ahead of its peers.

Still, the recording quality is devastating, the melodies are engaging and confident, and the vocals are consistently harsh and convincing. The vocal variety on display is impressive, ranging from black screech to death roar to menacing whisper-growl; there are even brief forays into clean singing in "Traveling Through Irkalla" that recall The End's _Elementary_, as well as full female vocals that hint at the melodrama of Evanescence. These moments are fleeting and unrepeated, however, and those two bands are hardly touchstones for the majority of Erimha's gothic black/death behemoth. For ears seeking predictable levels of destruction, _Irkalla_ is a very satisfying listen.


(article published 25/2/2011)

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