Somewhere lost in the mists of time (or more accurately my mother’s attic), there is a box full of cassettes that comprise an ark of the covenant of sorts, relics of a teenhood spent tape trading at the height of the death metal mania in the early to mid-90s. Were that box to be opened, one of its contents would be a copy of a demo by a then fledgling young doom death band from the UK called Enchantment, a band, who at the time, seemed to be picking up the mantle of the ‘Peaceville Three’, all of whom were starting to spread their musical wings wider. That band would sign to Century Media and release a promising debut, Dance The Marble Naked, and then… promptly vanish.
When news broke the band were awakening from slumber last year it seemed utterly unexpected. With all due respect to the Blackpool bunch, their first run was too brief for them to really make an impact outside of the underground, and time was against their melancholic doom/death atmospherics as the black metal hordes descended from Valhalla. Plenty of corpses have risen from the grave, and done so without the hunger that initially drove them.
So, it’s no small surprise that this relatively obscure band from another time have returned with a sophomore album that both seems nostalgic and utterly fresh. Enchantment have not changed. No concessions have been made, no bandwagons have been latched on to. Their sound is that uniquely UK doom death that’s rife with both melancholy and melody and stands just on the right side of theatrical. Frankly, as soon as the recent single As Greed As The Eye Beholds kicks off with an epic harmonic riff, time stands still. It’s like the last 28 years never happened except for one noticeable detail – Enchantment‘s songwriting is far stronger than it was back in the day.
Forgive my lack of eloquence, but it’s fucking mad. It’s impossible to disassociate Enchantment‘s music from an era and style that I’m sure they themselves understand is tied to a very specific time and place. But by the same token, their involvement back then lends an authenticity and understanding of their own identity that is deeply refreshing. While new bands can try and ape this era, this is the real deal. Natural and without pretense or any care for what is in vogue. Enchantment can stand on their own two feet proudly, feeling current, and not a nostalgia act. In fact, given the increasing lack of variety in the current doom/death sphere, their return with such a vivid album seems a little more triumphant than they possibly could have expected.
For the uninitiated… the emphasis is on doom here – real doom. Trouble. Candlemass. Dream Death. That’s what the root of this music seems to be. The lazy comparison for Enchantment back then was that they perhaps weren’t 100 miles away from Gothic era Paradise Lost but really, while that influence can’t be entirely discounted, it’s both unfair and inaccurate, and Enchantment recall hints of the pastoral, and even proggy, rather than trying to metal up The Sisters Of Mercy. Perhaps it’s their attention to clarity and melody, but Enchantment are more… well… the only word I can think of is perhaps ‘romantic’ than any of their headstone bothering peers. That’s not to suggest weakness or lack of power for one moment.
At no point on Cold Soul Embrace does this sound like a band trying to recreate their glory days – instead it’s literally the album that should have followed Dance The Marble Naked…
The opening orchestrations of Of Glorious Vistas Forgot, and the violin lines that run throughout illustrate exactly what I mean. The enhanced drama they lend to a song, which even without guitar/bass/drums would be pretty engrossing, is exactly the kind of fresh touch that Enchantment brings to the table on these songs. They never get too maudlin or mire themselves in the kind of eye-dabbing ‘woe is me’ pseudo adolescent guff that some might. And while their core mode is sorrowful and stately, each of these eight tracks (seven proper and one brief instrumental interlude The Wake of the Hollering Tide which itself is no slouch) they’re dynamic and carry a sense of momentum. There’s not an ounce of filler on hand.
Moods change, tempos vary – The Beauty Of Liars is Enchantment at their meanest and most deathly but doesn’t sacrifice feeling for bludgeon, even in its’ snarling opening riff. The preceding In A Cello Felt Glare is fantastically hooky, almost recalling the early days of Gothenburg (and, unintentionally, the violin riff from Style Council’s 80s banger Shout To The Top). They’re both heavy as fuck but coming from different places. By the time the closing One Jump Of The Sun brings the violin back in for a widescreen ending, it feels over all too quickly. Always the sign of a good album.
One of the handful of returns in recent memory where a band is actually stronger in their reincarnation than they were the first time around, Enchantment have done themselves proud with this unexpected shot in the arm of an album. Rather than try and adjust to current trends in their field, they’ve stuck to the roots of what made them worthwhile in the first place and have simply refined it thoroughly.
At no point on Cold Soul Embrace does this sound like a band trying to recreate their glory days – instead it’s literally the album that should have followed Dance The Marble Naked. A step up creatively, but one that, for whatever reason, has come out a quarter of a century later than it should have, like it’s been frozen in ice this whole time and is finally being thawed out like they’ve never been away. Now, I really should see if I can find that box of old demos…
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes