Steel Druhm reviewing a one-man atmospheric black metal album? How can this be happening? Does Vardan have him by the short back hairs? Did he get triple ape dared by that trickster, Muppet? No siree, Bob. Steel is reviewing the new Eneferens album because of what it is and what it is not. It is the product of one man named Jori Apedaileman, and it is an absolutely beautiful work of art spanning black, death, folk, post-metal and doom as effortlessly as I skip over metalcore in the promo slump. The Bleakness of Our Constant is that rare album that takes in many influences and uses them as fodder to create something special and unique. It’s way more atmospheric than blackened; more A Swarm of the Sun than Agalloch, but the overall blend of styles is impressively conceived and executed with great care and skill, resulting in an album of striking beauty, grace and depth. THAT’S why I’m here. Why are you here?
Opening with the gorgeous instrumental, “Leave,” the stage is set with somber, melancholic guitar-work in line with later era Anathema crossed with Insomnium at their most downtrodden. Emotion drips off every note as the guitar trills and weaves gentle tapestries through the ether, building to a satisfying denouement. If you’re going to do an instrumental opener, this is how you do it, kids. Then things erupt with black metal blasting as “This Onward Reach” surges to life like an angry titan rising from the depths of a turbulent sea. Nods to Emperor and Aeternus are present in the black metal presentation, but just as the music reaches full boil, things fall back toward restrained, depressive territory as Jori’s haunting clean vocals come to the fore, recalling the work of Erik Nilsson (Aoria, Swarm of the Sun) and whomever sings for Deathwhite. The remainder of the 7-minute monsterpiece plays out in this sullen, introspective headplace, part post-metal, part doom and it’s lush and stunning all the way, adorned with refined flamenco guitar work and soaring harmonies. This cut delivers a train load of the feelz all at once, all for you.
The album takes a lot of twists and turns, all well thought out and contributing to a strangely effective ebb and flow. The classic melodeath styling of “Amethyst” sounds like something Rapture could have written, but quickly give way to bleak, plaintive vocals and delicate guitar-work that tears at your heart with its beauty and vulnerability. “Awake” is all sadboy doom, with exquisitely forlorn vocals laid over tastefully morose melodies with an Anathema vibe. When the song punches up to the next level, it really takes flight and soars on the wings of ravens, with Jori’s perfectly placed high-pitched wails creating a striking moment. The man even tries his hand at mammoth funeral doom on “Weight of the Mind’s Periapt,” and lo and behold, it works, sounding like Swallow the Sun and Agalloch co-wrote it after attending a series of funerals for close friends.
At just under 43 minutes with 7 selections, there’s not much fat or chaff here. Several songs run over 7 minutes, but none feel long, which is the sign you’re dealing with a master craftsman. His long-form writing style reminds me of Marius Strand’s work with A Fall For Every Season and that’s high praise. The production is quite good for a one-man outing too. The guitars are crisp and clear but carry great weight when needed. Jori’s vocals are prominently placed, a bit pulled back when he’s singing, then pushed forward when it’s time for his blackened croaks or deathly roaring. This works well and gives the highly impressive guitar-work plenty of room to shine. And shine does it ever.
Jori is an impressive vocalist and his voice has just the right amount of dour fragility. His extreme vocals are also quite impressive, especially when paired with funeral doom tempos. As a guitarist he’s even more remarkable, filling the album with dazzling melodies and harmonies rivaling the fret-work on most SIG:AR:TYR albums. Every song has head shaking moments of string-borne beauty, and at times this almost feels like sullen Christmas music, and I think that’s grand.
The soundtrack to this winter’s depression has arrived and it packs enough despair for countless months of dark, isolated rumination. The sheer quality of this thing sent me scrambling to Bandcamp to buy everything this guy ever did, and that’s a rare phenomenon of an old crank like me. This is way out in front for my Record o’ the Year and I can’t say enough good things about it, though I certainly tried. Do not miss this in-depth reflection on the beauty in darkness and suffering. This one is special.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: EU: Nordvis Produktions | NA: Bindrune Recordings
Websites: eneferens.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/eneferens
Releases Worldwide: October 26th, 2018