Ember Sun – On Earth and Heaven Review

Here at Angry Metal Guy and His Amazing Super-Friends, we’ve all seen our fair share of one-person black metal. Seemingly every January, they all come out of their cocoons, sprout wings, and greet us all en-masse like the loveliest and most rewarding of locust swarms. But one-person funeral doom? Now that’s a treasured rarity, and not something that makes its presence known or felt all that often, if ever. And yet Lorthar, former guitarist for Greek black metallers Order of the Ebon Hand, felt that his prior band didn’t quite satisfy his needs, so he ventured off on his own to form Ember Sun, handling all duties and offering us On Earth and Heaven. With years spent reviewing metal music, I anticipated a much-needed break of one-person kvltness, and readied myself to welcome some solitary low-and-slow.

And… hoo-boy. First, the positives: Lorthar developed a knack of layering that suffocating atmosphere thick, like those cooking videos featuring recipes that sound simultaneously tasty and horrific, like a deep-fried pizza/quesadilla combo. He wants you to feel sorrow and despair and goddamnit, you’re going to feel that sorrow and despair throughout all forty-five minutes of On Earth and Heaven whether you like it or not! Also, his leads, few as they are, sound terrific, especially that mind-blowing solo during the comparatively upbeat “Ember Heart of Me.” Finally, whoever the woman is that’s supplying the subdued wailing during closer “My Essence Fades in Time” has a pleasant voice. And that’s going to do it for the good.

So what went wrong? Well, when you mix your own music, you need to take special care in that you don’t smother everything to the point of your music being colorless and asphyxiated. All of On Earth and Heaven is just guitars slathered over guitars slathered over weepy synths slathered over loudly-mixed programmed drums slathered over questionably-performed vocals, and they’re all doing their damnedest to come up for air. Everything’s also compressed within an inch of their lives so much that a significant portion of the album is just painful to listen to. The chorus in “Ember Heart of Me” will be responsible for doctors’ visits due to tinnitus, I can pretty much guarantee.

All of that would be fine and dandy if the music rose above the horrendous mix, but On Earth and Heaven fumbles here as well. The two shorter songs, “Ember Heart of Me” and “Respawn,” remind me of the goofier, dance-hall-inspired Eternal-era Samael, only with Lorthar’s iffy vocals either warbling all over the place in the former, or hissing quietly in the latter. The three epic-length tracks (out of six total) suffer from poor flow between parts, and in the case of “My Essence Fades in Time,” some weird programmed drum patterns near the song’s latter third. Finally, there’s absolutely no need at all to listen to “The Chapel” more than once, unless you really want to hear bells ringing, off-kilter drum poundings, and crows cawing incessantly for almost six excruciating minutes.

Look, autumn’s upon us here in this part of the globe. With all the pumpkin-spiced mania, non-stop horror film marathons, and especially the cool, crisp air blowing through leaf-malnourished trees, it’s the perfect time of year for atmospheric funeral doom. Thankfully, we’ve got some incredible examples already, and there’s a new Funeral album on the horizon. I was rooting for Ember Sun to bring the sorrow like there’s no tomorrow, but On Earth and Heaven just brought boredom and potential hearing loss instead. I’m sincerely hoping Lorthar can build on his strengths on the next pass, but I can’t recommend inflicting unnecessary physical pain on people. Get your sad on elsewhere, folks.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Code666 Records
Websites: embersun.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/EmberSunBand
Releases Worldwide: EU: 2021.10.22 | NA: 12.10.2022

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