Despite ostensibly belonging to a melodic death circuit that favors homogeneity, Eva Can’t consistently blow my expectations to smithereens. Precursors Inabisso and Hinthial wowed me with their ability to incorporate melodic fervor and technical precision into a range of influences spanning metalcore – Wait! Don’t go! – to classical music. But as the years have gone by, the Italians have departed from a truly consistent sound, resulting in music that is amorphous and difficult to pin down. Gravatum travels farther into progressive territory, finding a depth of emotion and beauty in place of largely dismissed metal conventions.
Eva Can’t’s “dramatic metal” moniker initially smells like a brimming bucket of bullshit, but it actually makes sense. Everything this band does has a sense of gravitas to it, from the operatic delivery of Simone Lanzoni’s flowing Italian lyrics to the winding exploration that can rattle windows one moment and melt an icy heart the next. Elder comes to mind, not in the music itself but in a presentation that tumbles effortlessly between ideas and movements. 11-minute opener “L’Alba Ci Rubò il Silenzio” maintains Eva Can’t’s long-form ideology, ambling through easy-listening riffs and intricately laid undercurrents of acoustic guitar, keyboard, and bass. The track hits on some emotional post-metal sensibilities, but never abandons its instrumental prowess or production values for the rawness of post’s bitter interiors. Lanzoni contorts himself upon the stage, a true showman to the end. His impressive ability to captivate and command transcends language barriers. While one of the album’s few true metal moments serves as the core of “Apostasia della Rovina,” it’s Lanzoni’s hypnotic A Forest of Stars-style ramblings that crescendo into a de facto apex and shift the mood of the entire track on their own.
The instant gratification of the band’s previous Wintersun riffing and Sentient Ignition-minded progressive technicality has largely dissipated. If Inabisso was Eva Can’t’s Reign in Blood, with a fire that the band couldn’t and wouldn’t top, then Gravatum is akin to Seasons in the Abyss, but without “War Ensemble” or “Hallowed Point” to tie everything together. Sections of “Apostasia della Rovina” and “Gravatum” offer brief returns to Eva Can’t’s gruesome origins, but primarily in the form of blasting black metal meshed with a melodic backbone. Lanzoni barely growls on Gravatum, and more attention is devoted to the piano ballad of “Terra” than the totality of the album’s metal moments. It appears that Eva Can’t’s heart simply isn’t in that side of their music anymore. I can’t shake the feeling that Gravatum is missing a crucial component, but it’s hard to fault this change when the remainder of the record comes off so well. The summery opening chords of “Oceano” match the heights of its eclectic Thy Catafalque mood swings, while the grandiose rolls and jazzy jams of closer “Pittori del Fulgido Astratto” remain enjoyable throughout its 16-minute run.
Eva Can’t place increased emphasis on the contemplative nature of their work, and their instrumentals shine as a result. The master from Giuseppe Orlando (Novembre) is still louder than I prefer from a band with atmospheric chops like these, but the mix and instrument tones are phenomenal across the board. Guest keyboardist Andrea Roda earns high marks as the album would be all the lesser without its many piano flourishes and subtle keyboard filling. Guitarists Lanzoni and Luigi Iacovitti manage to stitch together their myriad of styles with a natural ease, while Lanzoni’s vocal performance has been one of my favorites of the year. The sheer emotion and conviction dripping from every syllable ensnares me in a way that most melancholy-driven metal so often fails to do. Typically the quiet beauty of “Terra” would do nothing for me, but Lanzoni’s work is too good to dismiss.
I still lament Gravatum’s forsaking of the metallic edge that made previous albums so delicious. Eva Can’t’s previous releases blended compassion with furor, style with flair, in such perfect measures that seeing the band move down the line breaks my heart a bit. However, Gravatum mitigates this by embracing its own forlorn nature, offering in turn something unexpected but equally worthy of a place in Eva Can’t’s pantheon. This may not be the album I wanted at the onset, but Gravatum managed to win me over anyway.