Ixion - _To the Void_
(Avantgarde Music, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
It has been awhile since I heard a really good atmospheric doom band. Ixion's press release spun their new record as "a giant revival of melodic doom metal in the mid '90s UK style (early Anathema, My Dying Bride, Theatre of Tragedy) but with an actual modern overview." Ixion is going for a specific time and place with their brand of orchestral doom. The cover for _To the Void_ sports a starscape with transparent geometric symbol laid overtop. From the opening chords of the "The Plague", Ixion makes it clear they are here for one purpose: to obliterate your soul with a type of care and finesse usually left out of the smoldering world of doom.

It is strange a French band would use a British '90s style as a selling point. There has been an array of decent melodic / atmospheric doom from across the whole of Europe. Skepticism, Lethian Dreams and The 3rd and the Mortal have all convinced the 38 fans in the world good doom exists in unexpected places. Ixion is from France but does not wear their nationality on a sleeve. The name Ixion takes its name from a tragic Greek myth which might involve cloud and horse fornication. It is a very weird story which is odd for one French metal band to use the name, but is almost bewildering this Ixion is the second. Nevertheless, Ixion's penchant for weird Greek tales does hinder _To the Void_ as the themes of space, depression and ultimate hopelessness of man between the skies and earth make themselves known in crashing keyboard drones.

Ixion manages to pull together the emotional highlights of melodic doom without falling over the edge of emotive vulnerability. Ixion uses keyboard and orchestral structures to prop up a particularly harsh form of doom with the vocals of Julien Prat / Yannick Dilly sharing duties as the comforter and the disciplinarian. The 56 minute running time is broken between manageable tracks which do not exceed seven minutes in length. This is surprising, as the genre opens itself up to 9, 13 and 45 minute opuses across the rocky landscapes of grief and despair. The opening cries of "Fear of the Hidden" are fantastic, with just enough throaty rasp to keep the track interesting. The majority of the album puts up an harsh exterior, but it is not until the later portion of the album when the gloves are dropped and the full healing process begins.

_To the Void_'s most daring tracks are the closers "Soothing in Agony" / "Fade to Blue". What begins with a piano melody, light distortion turns into a stage for Prat / Dilly to belt out a soliloquy full of sorrow. The vocals reach such a strangled cry it is almost impossible not to feel some sort of relief when over. The songs are risky, because they threaten to lose the listener in eye rolls and girlish giggles. The album's ending puts itself out on an emotional limb without cracking or bowing. This is surprising because "Fade to Blue" interlaces itself with Celtic woodwind instruments. Is this doom metal's new break up album? If it is, I cannot think of a more perfect album cover nor a better band to do so.

Melodic doom is a tricky genre to present. Ixion's cited influences of Anathema, My Dying Bride and Theater of Tragedy share common traits -- specifically, they all went careering headfirst into love scorned nonsense sometime in their career. This move into emotional jelly is expected when working with such a delicate material such as melodic doom. Heavy hands and inexperience can crush the genre like sheer lace or the withering pedals of a dying rose. Ixion's hands are soft and tenderized with expensive lotion. Whether or not those hands rest inside an iron gauntlet is for the listener to decide.

Contact: http://ixiondoom.free.fr/

(article published 19/4/2011)

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