Ezkaton – To Those Who Fell Review

It feels like it’s been forever since I reviewed Sheen and Misery, the sophomore full-length from Ukranian depressive black metal project Ezkaton. It hasn’t—it’s been less than three years, but, well, a lot has happened, and I think less of it has been positive than most of us would like. And on days when you want to curse and hate and scoff at the world, Ezkaton is like the cold side of your pillow, offering cold comfort you can’t find anywhere else. Now Roman Sapozhnikov1 is back with his distinct shrieks, passionate rage, and cold, cold melancholy for To Those Who Fell, an album that sees his project moving in new despairing directions.

To Those Who Fell hits a lot harder and moves a lot faster than Sheen and Misery, and acts as a more immediate, angrier, and even more cynical album than its predecessor. The guitar work is prominent and varied, shifting from mournful tremolos (“Fey to Failure”) to more progressive arrangements (“Göbleki Tepe”) alongside standard black metal styles (“In Memory of People”). The album opens calmly enough, but the complex drumming, heavy guitar riffs, and the fervor in Sapozhnikov’s shrieks, surpassing the quality of his past performances, paves the way for an angry, hopeless, depressive album that has no interest in the side where the grass is greener. To Those Who Fell is a very emotional listen, with Ezkaton effectively pouring its passions into this bleak, despairing album.

That emotion is the key, here; in an album where the vocals manifest as unintelligible shrieks and repetition is only valued so much, Ezkaton is at its best when you can get lost in the flow of the music. “Fey to Failure” is a phenomenal example of this, where the stirring keys, picked guitar, and impassioned vocal delivery makes for a song that is enrapturing for a full seven-and-a-half minutes. Despite the “depressive” black metal label, To Those Who Fell is an enjoyable album even if you’re not fully into music so bleak, because it’s so well-written. Sapozhnikov’s talent for writing engaging black metal is on full display here, with especial emphasis on the way the largely atmospheric keys add enduring melancholy to some songs (“World Passing You By”) and tension to others (“Path of Shame”). Everything works remarkably well, and it feels like Ezkaton is really coming into its own style.

For the most part, that is. Towards the end of the album, To Those Who Fell stumbles, ever so slightly, in its flow. With only seven songs spanning forty-five minutes,2 the record comes off as tight, well-edited, and polished, which makes “Göbleki Tepe” all the more unusual. The song is almost progressive in nature, opening with a distorted, halting guitar line that becomes the basis for a sharp lead guitar melody that oozes discomfort. I don’t mean that in the negative sense, mind—it’s clear this song intends to put the listener off-guard—but it is a bit jarring following five well-polished, melancholic tracks. “Gray Ghost of Dark Couloirs” follows with a lot of similar energy in its opening minutes, which is not in itself a bad thing, but makes the album feel like it has two distinct “halves”—except the second half is only the last third of the album. For an album that rides so well on a distinctly dark, woeful fury, these two tracks stand out for their comparative strangeness.

To Those Who Fell feels like a natural progression from Sheen and Misery and does a great job at conveying the darkness that so strongly defines Ezkaton. When the only criticism you can really offer an album is that its “flow” isn’t perfect, you know you’ve got something good on your hands. Roman Sapozhnikov has further cemented his ability to craft harrowing, mournful, and angry music. To Those Who Fell is an album that speaks to a very specific set of emotions, but it speaks in their native tongue when it does. On the bleakest, dreariest, and saddest days, I daresay this is an album that has exactly what you need to hear waiting for you.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Wild Hunt
Websites: ezkaton1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ezkaton.band
Releases Worldwide: February 22nd, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Who I believe is the only member of the band, but, as ever, credits are elusive.
  2. Sheen and Misery was twelve tracks long and clocked in at over seventy minutes; I’d call this an improvement.
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