EVOKEN / BENEATH THE FROZEN SOIL (s/t) Split CD
Tranquil, sinister, slowly - growls that seems to emerge from the bottom...vague, incomprehensible - screams from someone who has seen barbarity. Music for those who feel the curse, for those who cannot look away.
"The deathlike radiance of collapsing stars cast prophetic shadows upon my birth. [...] The cruel tyranny of time cannot decay the truths I possess. The horrors of ancient eons; the rivers of blood shed in barbaric wars; the stark suffering of humanity through the savages of plagues. I bear the inconceivable weight of perpetual thought. The curse of divinity..."
We follow the curse of the gods into the abyss. Music with uncompromising darkness, the intense celebration of the apocalypse...quiet moments where sometimes a major chord can get lost, followed by a storm of screams and distorted guitars. As always, the music from EVOKEN caught me at once. The first track 'Omniscent' from which the above quote comes, has already been released in 2002 on the 'Make Peace Not War' compilation. Here we find a re-recorded version from 2008 where, for example, vocals were inserted. The vocals of John Paradiso, who also plays guitar, are unmistakable and also guitarist Nick Orlando is still in the band, but otherwise bassist Craig Pillard has been replaced by David Wagner (ex-FUNEBRUM) who joined the band after the last CD 'A Caress of the Void'. Furthermore the band has been reinforced with Chris Molinari (guitar) as well as Don Zaros (keyboards). This will give you some idea of the significantly staff restructuring. Remarkably, there are three guitars to be heard that assure that the sound is more vicious.
The new EVOKEN songs are stylistically even closer to Death/Doom, while 'A Caress of the Void' was more located in Funeral Doom territory. Together with the three new songs 'The Pleistocene Epoch', 'Vestigial Fears' and 'Into the Primal Shrine (Instrumental)', EVOKEN claim for themselves 41 minutes playing times and thus also two-thirds of the split album. The glacial track 'The Pleistocene Epoch' is the longest song on this disc. It starts quiet and with some reverb at the beginning, then to go over to a slow pace. Clear vocals alternate with growls and the band creates a scenario that doesn't reach the uncompromising darkness of the first track. In places classic Death/Doom elements can be heard that could interlink with synthies to form a dense carpet of sounds, provided with reverb which gives the impression of wideness. Equally remarkable is the last EVOKEN track that was described as 'instrumental', but that does not mean that there are no vocals. It's more that the growls remain incomprehensible. Finally, it should be noted that EVOKEN has been successful and their songs show a slightly different musical tendency: the intensity is not lost, but they do not reach the uncompromising gloom of the last album.
BENEATH THE FROZEN SOIL is a young Swedish band that was founded in 2004 and has, so far, delivered a couple of split albums. Their music sounds less clear, but rather thin and less punchy. In particular, not much low frequencies can be heard. Appropriately, the vocals are more screechy with higher growls. Overall, then, the sound fits more to a Black Metal band and I can't suppress the feeling, that it is rather Ambient Black Metal played at a slower speed instead of Death/Doom. The first track 'Ironlung' is also the longest track, clocking in at 9 minutes. The intro consists of an Ambient part that forms a very atmospheric and emotional passage from EVOKEN's section. Also very fitting is the accentuated downtempo of this track, especially because the band usually prefers a slightly faster pace. Here again, the screaming-style vocals can be heard as well as rougher vocals. I think the track overall is a little too static.
The next two songs are shorter and in the same style, but now and then pervaded by one or the other Death/Doom riff. However, I think the mood particularly in 'Monotone Black II' seems almost buoyant and cheerful, especially considering the overwhelming darkness of the first tune. It seems pretty out of place on this album. In overall terms, the conclusion may be drawn that BENEATH THE FROZEN SOIL remain in the shadow of EVOKEN. Admittedly, it is difficult for a relatively young band to stand up to an experienced band. Taking this into consideration, it is possible to discover their potential. In my opinion, the combination of Death/Doom, Black Metal and Ambient is expandable. I can only suggest to buy this album and make your own judgement!