Ebonivory – The Long Dream I Review

I first heard of Ebonivory due to Caligula’s Horse. These guys were supposed to open for the Horse on their North American tour this year, but of course that was cancelled. It did prompt me to hit up Bandcamp and purchase their discography (two EPs and an LP), which turned out to be really good. References can definitely be made between these guys and other Australian prog acts such as Voyager, Karnivool, and Dead Letter Circus. Fast forward a couple of months and here we are, with a brand new release from these Aussies, The Long Dream I. Part one of a two-part concept series, a sort of collection of scattered dreams and memories from the protagonist’s youth. Based on the strength of 2015’s The Only Constant, this is a prog album I’ve been looking forward to.

The Long Dream I opens in a manner I loathe,1 yet manages to introduce a cinematically heavy mood; something that is prevalent throughout the album. The following three songs have all been out as singles for some time now, and come as no surprise to fans of the band. The style of all three is similar: there is a strong commercial appeal insofar as the melodies and clean vocals are catchy and accessible, while at the same time countered with harsh vocals and heavier musical moments much like the last (and upcoming) Haken albums – complex staccato bursts of guitar/bass/kick drum which tread close to djent territory without ever wandering completely in.

I’ve mentioned Ebonivory’s influences already. These guys inject their music with plenty of the sweet prog of Caligula’s Horse and the more radio friendly, shall we say, alt-prog of Dead Letter Circus. It’s all anchored by outstanding vocals from Charlie Powlett, who like every Aussie prog singer (it seems) is gifted with an outstanding voice. On Dream I, however, Powlett branches out even further than before vocally, imbuing many of the tracks with a clean/harsh duality that works quite well. Harsh vocals made rare appearances on The Only Constant: here they’re much more prevalent. Some of the heavier tracks, such as “Window Man” and “Explosions After Dark,” let loose with plenty of pent-up aggression musically, while Powlett howls and growls his way across the expanse.

Despite this, Powlett is still at his best in the quieter moments, displaying a voice that’s as strong and versatile as any in the game. “Cats,” which is welcome respite after four energetic, heavier tracks, starts off light and airy, with matching vocals, while gradually building to a final climactic minute. The nine-minute “The Bluegums” is the most elaborate song, featuring a wonderful arrangement and emotional vocals. When combined with the closer “Introvection,” it forms maybe the best closing combination since Karnivool’s Sound Awake. And that’s big praise. “Introvection” is the video I chose to link to below, as the song really does sum up the band’s style beautifully. It features a descending riff, driving verses with alternating clean/harsh vocals, a delicate bridge, a killer guitar solo from Louis Edwards, and an emotionally spent coda.

Ebonivory have spent close to four years recording, overdubbing, honing, and fine-tuning The Long Dream I, and it shows through meticulous arrangements and seriously strong production. That the band (predominantly Powlett) self-produced this opus and made it sound this good is something that is rarely pulled off. Karnivool’s Forrester Savell mastered the album, and I suspect provided a lot of tips to the band in the process. If I have one nitpick, it would be the overly-loud kick drum. At its high level in the mix it adds a bit of an over-processed quality to the heavier moments. Outside of that, this is an aurally impeccable record. It does make me wonder how long it will take to release part II, though…

Ebonivory’s first scattering of releases presented a band with great promise, with a sound steeped in the modern Australian prog scene. It was important for them to break out of that mold, at least a little, and they have succeeded here on The Long Dream I, which is sure to go down as one of the best prog metal albums of the year. With this release, Ebonivory have vaulted to the fore of the scene. Hopefully they get the chance to cross the pond and put it all out there for a new bevy of fans next year.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Wild Thing Records
Websites: ebonivory.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ebonivoryband
Releases Worldwide: June 5th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I am not a fan of intro tracks, and this one is even called “Introduction.” The nerve!
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