There are two things that could have pulled intrigued listeners in to Eibon’s second full-length. The first is the band themselves – featuring members of Decline of the I, Glorior Belli and Drowning, they’re as fine a representation of the French underground as anyone could wish for, plus they’d already proven their worth on their searing, stylishly obtuse debut ‘Entering Darkness’ back in 2010. The other grabber is that artwork. Painted by German expressionist and staunch critic of war, ‘Triptychon der Krieg’ is a savage, stark depiction of trench warfare and yet has a bleakly alluring, almost perverse, beauty to it. Together, they set the bar high both in terms of quality and atmosphere, yet ‘II’ is the kind of album that can exceed even the loftiest of expectations.
Of the two lengthy, diametrically opposing tracks on offer, it’s opener ‘The Void Settlers’ that best demonstrates their evolution over the past 3 years. More honed and focused on a droning, lethargic sense of heaviness, the first few minutes are a gruelling slog through mountainous riffing and swamps of drone, the bilious screech of Georges Balafas scything through the murk. Overwhelmingly physical, it hits like good absinthe but the punch is soon dimmed in favour of crawling, funereal doom. From the sense of tense pressure to the choking miasma of misanthropy that hangs over it, it’s has the feel of a painting of Victorian Paris or London, of shadowy chaos with a diseased air so thick you can taste it. As the smog clears, the instruments begin to diverge. Guitars take on a reeling, ecstatic sense of discord, bass hits an urgent, gravelly groove and drums swell in intensity, pushing the momentum imperceptibly until it explodes in an unexpected moment of head-banging bliss.
In contrast, the even-lengthier ‘Elements Of Doom’ is a more ponderous affair. Opening with an extended ambient passage, what sounds like the distant rumble of gunfire lighting in the darkness, a sparse guitar chimes in the background before supplanting the sample with its own hell. Even more so than on its predecessor, the vocals are stripped way back to the sickening misanthropy of 90’s black metal but rather than simply replicate its suffocating weight, the band seemingly take a few pointers from Cult Of Luna and Switchblade and toy more with texture and needling tremolo riffing that sits somewhere between black metal and hardcore. Somehow, it manages to up the album’s complexity but it still feels like a direct assault, something aggressive and unapologetically nasty, and in its own atypical fashion, it’s here that Eibon best replicate the perverse allure and poetic horror of Dix’s work.
What ‘II’ achieves best is to strip away much of the extraneous meanderings of ‘Entering Darkness’ and to focus on that single image of misery and cynicism, both by way of doom’s suffocating density or through the all-or-nothing nature of black metal. They have a great handle on the nuances of both and yet this never feels like a genre record – the natural progression between these extremes seems neither calculated nor contrived; the execution is flawless, the sharp flurries of blastbeats as precise and moving as the twinkling ambiance of ‘Elements Of Doom’s’ closing moments; and they have a way of making twenty minutes seem like two. Last year, Sonance released an album that surprised everyone with its distinctive, compelling vision of heaviness and this year, Eibon have equalled that in every respect.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes