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Edenfall - Under Sultry Moons and Velvet Skies

Edenfall - CD Review
Under Sultry Moons and Velvet Skies








RavenHeart Music
10 tracks
English lyrics
9 / 10


This is an English band but it’s not what I would generally call an English sound. To my way of thinking anyway, it’s almost more Eastern European, or maybe it’s because I’m working with a Ukrainian band, Edenian, that has a somewhat similar approach to the music. Both are especially fine Doom metal bands, although they call themselves Gothic / Doom. These labels can become confusing at times. I really don’t see Gothic and Doom sharing the same living quarters. Both are richly textured sounds, but Gothic and Doom just don’t typically sound the same to me. And, lyrically, they also differ, if only in degree. Neither is exactly happy music, but the Gothic always signified, to me anyway, a more ethereal, existential approach to the message. Doom is just plain DARK. With Gothic you’re considering the eternal, with Doom you’re there and wondering what truck hit you and damn, this may be worse than what you expected. Maybe it’s too fine a distinction to spend time pondering given that most of the music we feature on this site is a long ways from the typical boy band but, given the interesting lyrics we often encounter with this music its nice to be able to describe the sound with a reference that everyone can understand.

One of the nice things about this release, which may or may not be available when you read this, depends on when the review goes up, is that the band has provided some nice material to familiarize you with it. For instance, lead singer Clare Webster, provides a complete description of the entire release, the lyrics that is, in this video. Now, to be sure, the lass does have an accent that would make an Alabama redneck cry but if you have some familiarity with the King’s English this should be reasonably comprehensible. She tells tales of witches and pagan mythology that seem to take her particular tack on the subject and put it into a frame of reference that may not meet the demands of right wing Christian America but, hey, they weren’t going to leave Country / Western anyway so no harm, no foul. But, her writing is sufficiently abstract on most tracks to make her explanations on the video worth listening to. And frankly, Doom metal, and I do classify this as Doom metal, is often more about the sound and the emotive quality than a tight reading of the lyrics anyway. And, this is some damn sure fine music.

There’s actually a second video that talks about the release. This one is done by Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/producer Rob George and is a more complete coverage of the work. George is clearly never going to be confused with a Texan or a New Yorker but he’s a little easier to understand than Webster and he does a fine job of covering the terrain. In fact, I really can’t think of any good reasons to go beyond these two videos to describe the release but I’m suppose to say something so I guess we have to continue.

Probably the first issue I would address is that Doom / Gothic thing. I asked the band about it, Clare responded, “When Rob and I started the band in 2009, we were both very much into British Doom bands such as My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, but also the more Gothic female fronted bands from Scandinavia such as Draconian and Tristania - so we aimed to combine those two influences I guess.” I guess I’m seeing more Draconian here than the bands I consider Gothic. But, there is certainly the fundamental requirements for Doom; the solid femme metal vox combined with the male death vocals. In fact, one could argue they have some similarity with Draconian but with a little more emphasis on symphonics on some tracks. It could be argued further that typical Gothic sometimes takes a more upbeat direction musically, a harder metal sound, things like early Nightwish, Epica and other Dutch Gothic bands like Within Temptation, Ex Libris and the like. I still hear a lot more of the Scandinavian here than the My Dying Bride but that’s just me.

I also asked Clare about the production process. She had an interesting response, “Rob usually starts off by writing the basis of the songs and then Marcelo and Sean work out their bass lines and drum parts over the top. I write all the lyrics and lyrical melodies once the music is complete, although I have also contributed a couple of songs that we have all worked on to improve. Rob tends to write more about his emotions and more melancholic subjects, whereas in this album in particular, I've written about witchcraft, paganism and mythology.” I’ll get to some of the specifics regarding those lyrical topics in a moment. But, the vocals that deliver those lyrics were also of interest. Clare especially has a vocal that I would find hard to improve on for the brand of music being delivered here. Her’s is a sound that would not work with the Andrews Sisters or much of anything pre 1991, unless you found a coven in Salem looking for a British lead. ‘Course, in that part of the country, they’d be more likely to understand her. But, I did ask her about her musical training and she addressed the topic, “The only formal vocal training I've had was during school and college where I was a member of different choirs. Apart from that I'm self taught and I guess my voice has been influenced over time by the singers that I listen to /practice along with a lot. Examples are Loreena Mckennitt, Lisa Gerrard, Amy Lee etc.”

The release opens with an instrumental track whose intent clearly is to express the notion that we will not be doing happy music. They can play this one at my funeral, it should put everyone in the proper frame of mind to celebrate my untimely demise. But, it leads to the second track Thristle’s Cairn which does an exemplary job of destroying those previous comments I made saying there was no hard Gothic metal on the release. At least for the first minute or so. Then we devolve into the death metal vocal and everything returns to normal.

Among the rocks and roots / Lay bones as old as time
Resting in a deathly moot / Beneath a velvet sky.
A cairn built for Kings / Holds me in the deep.
A dream’s broken wing / Protects me while I sleep.

Obsidian is another that exhibits a beat somewhere on the other side of a funeral waltz. There’s even a bit of a San Francisco hippy sound on this one. . . until the Mistress of the Grave begins her part of the production. But, it is a bit more upper, especially the chugging guitar line that crops up at irregular intervals and gives the track a memorable instrumental quality. However, past this track things only go darker and colder. And one of the coldest is Wolves. This one has movie track written all over it, I can see half a dozen feature films that would appreciate this approach to sound. Lots of killer keys that move violently through the dark lyrical work like a bad dream through the early hours of dawn.

The children of the night / Bewitched by a full moon’s light.
Creating tales of grief and woe / Singing softly: deathly groans.

Ghostly lights: drenched in quietness / Reflected in a pool of nothingness.

The next several tracks continue this dark journey with a rich combination of solid instrumental work combined with the luxurious femme vocals traded off against the male death metal vocals. This is Doom metal at its finest; nothing provides a feeling to compare outside this domaine. The work concludes with She Brings the Winter which has to be one of the finest Doom metal tracks I’ve ever heard. It’s not a short one, goes on for just short of 14 minutes. It’s brutal. I asked the band about it. Their thoughts, “She Brings the Winter' is the album's closing track. It's the longest song on the album and is generally regarded as the most epic sounding on the album, which is partly why we chose to place it at the end of the album as the final track - it's an epic finale to the album. Musically, I wanted to put a bit of everything we do in there: the slow, brooding doomy stuff, the epic gothic atmospheres with the choirs, church bells etc., the folky acoustic guitars of the verses and the faster, heavier, almost black metal influences heard after the second chorus. I wanted to take everything we do and roll it into one song to finish the album with, to leave the archetypal Edenfall taste in people's mouths when the album finishes.

As for the lyrical content: it's about the cycle of life and the cycle of the earth: winter, spring, summer, autumn etc. and how we as human beings go through a similar cycle with regards to being born, growing up, reproducing, dying etc. I may not have described that perfectly, because it was Clare who wrote the lyrics - not me, but perhaps check her lyrical video for more info on that.”

Not sure I can add to that. Pretty much says it all.

So, there you have it, solid Doom / Gothic (?) metal from the UK.  Worth every lb. sterling you need to spend to get it.  Witchcraft never sounded better.