Despite hailing from an English-speaking part of the world, Rapheumets Well and their third full-length, Enders Door, immediately triggered me with their flagrant disregard for apostrophes. It was this distress which drew my eye to these North Carolinians as I cursorily browsed the promo bin. Alarm bells immediately rang but this is much better than the ambivalence I usually enjoy while surveying upcoming releases. I had something to think about which at least gave them a foot in my active consideration. They say you can learn much about a man by his opinions on punctuation but before you all remove your clothes in your excitement, allow me a few minutes to evaluate the actual album.
Enders Door splits its time between the cosmic technical death metal of The Faceless and the symphonic extreme metal of Septicflesh. The former aspect manifests through spacey synths and the record’s subject matter: Rapheumets Well itself is a reference to gravity wells while the overarching plot tracks a multi-dimensional deity who toys with portals and travelers between said dimensions. Fulfilling this influence, the music is fast, modern in tone and densely packed into a severely limited dynamic range. The latter aspect facilitates a wide range of orchestral instrumentation. As is typical of symphonic metal this is most commonly strings and a backing choir, but also brandished are pianos, organs, horns and female cleans which veer close to operatic. Despite the range of heavy and light influences, Enders Door is disappointingly brickwalled as no instrument or melodic line has the space required to be fully appreciated. Worse is that the electric guitars are buried too deep beneath the classical elements such that it’s often difficult to pick out the riffs.
Where they’re actually audible, some of these riffs are quite cool. The groovy guitar and effective counter-pointing orchestral melody from about 3:20 on during “The Autogenous Extinction” is easily the best passage on the record, especially as this riff is succeeded by one of the few solos which aren’t needlessly masturbatory. It uses melody above simple speed and technicality which works in its favor. The riff opening “Killing the Colossus” fuses regular power chords with tremolo-picking in a badass way and the relative dearth of symphonic adornments at 3:55 allows a meaty guitar lead to stomp everywhere. “Enders Door” and “The Diminished Strategist” both lead with riffs which are immediate and battering; such directness is a boon to a heavy album.
I must now, unfortunately, progress to the remainder of Enders Door. It’s fairly damning when I question the purpose of many passages beyond these aforementioned highlights. Additional music on an album justifies itself by offering something new or by executing the same strategy well. I would argue that “The Traveler,” “Distress on the Aberrant Planet,” “Secrets of the Demigods” and “Ghost Walkers Exodus” all do neither. They’re dreary examples of technical extreme metal with little to no redeeming qualities. They’re blasting and quick but not visceral and consequently leave no mark on me. When I say I prefer music that’s emotive I don’t mean it has to be melancholic or triumphant; anger and vitriol are entirely valid responses to heavier stuff. But I lack any sort of attachment to most of Enders Door. The piano-led interlude on “Eishar’s Lament” is the only track that exercises my emotions, but this only accentuates my detachment elsewhere.
Have you noticed that I’ve referenced nine songs without repeating myself? That’s quite a few you’re probably thinking. And yet a further four fill out the record’s 63 minutes. This is a clear breach of my rule that the faster and more brutal the material, the shorter the album should be. This volume of technical death metal is simply excessive when much of it doesn’t positively contribute to the listening experience. While there are three interludes, or at least quasi-interludes, to break apart the aggression, they’re all on the back half which makes me question their spacing. And those four particularly weak tracks I mentioned earlier? Three sit close to the opening which ensures that embarking on this multi-dimensional journey is a real struggle.
Enders Door isn’t hatefully awful but there are so many niggling flaws I could describe at length that I can only recommend that you actively avoid it. I’m saddened to reveal that the dearth of apostrophes was only the beginning of my troubled relationship with Rapheumets Well. You may now continue to disrobe to hear more about my views on punctuation but I hope your excitement isn’t quelled by Enders Door. Mine certainly is.