The EP format holds many challenges; it’s often a tempting escape for bands that mistake frequency of publication for quality. However, it also holds great potential for those who know how to wield it. Just like the 140 characters tweet, the shorter format of an EP often leads one to greater creativity, a distillation of force and purpose. When a good band releases an EP it can often give their music that necessary, final push into greatness. So it is with Ebonivory, a band whose sound is so emblematically Australian that you really don’t need me to geo-locate them. More than that, they also have a good album from 2015, The Only Constant. But, a year after it, they’ve released an EP titled Ebonivory II which completely transcends it, providing their music the focus and momentum it needed in order to truly excel.
The kind of music that Ebonivory produces is heavily influenced by the ambient djent movement which contained/contains bands like TesseracT, Monuments, Ever Forthright and, to a lesser extent, Australian natives Karnivool. Within this regime, the djent riffs are often coupled with harsher vocals while clean vocals are accompanied by spaced-out leads and return to grace choruses. On Ebonivory II, Ebonivory both go beyond this formula and dig deeper into it, channeling it and abjuring it at the same time.
Beginning at the start, the first track, “Gravity” is an embrace of that approach, spiced with some swancore moments that might remind one of Sianvar. Regardless, the palm-mute and chugged chord progressions reign supreme, accompanied by expertly delivered growls and sweet cleans when these are called for. Everything is well made and progresses according to plan to a pleasing degree, establishing and then completely satisfying the desires of the listener. Simply put, “Gravity” is an indulgence, a track that knows exactly what is expected of it and isn’t scared to play it straight. The following track, “Light the Fires”, hints at those Karnivool influences with its bass-centric intro. It’s a good track but is perhaps the least memorable, wedged as it is between “Gravity” and the closing track. It does, however, enjoy extremely strong vocal hooks on its verse and main chorus which burn bright even after the track is done. These serve to make sure it’s not a lull but rather a pleasing respite before an emotional end.
That end is closing track where the culmination of the EP is finally found. “Heat Death of the Universe” is a mostly quiet track which channels a pop-rock approach that reminds us of As Tall As Lions. It finally explodes, twice, in its middle and those peaks are all the better for the buildup before it. The vocals are dreamy, airy and ephemeral, caressing as the guitar leads support them and gentle bass fills in the cracks. After the explosion, which draws on elements already established in “Gravity”, the instruments return to silence but a different one than the contemplative quiet present at the beginning. This one is more Devin Townsend on his latest album, all electronic cheer and loneliness, sweet guitars and hopeful touches on the bass.
Long story short, Ebonivory II has enabled this band to drill deep and tap into the places that were felt but not brought fully to bear on previous releases. It’s a huge step forward to them and one which, we can only hope, survives into their future works. If they can channel this power of expression into a full length release, perhaps in 2017, we’d be looking at another very strong to the addition to the already incredible, Australian scene. For now, this EP is a sweetly short exploration of power, balance and contrast and a pleasing manifestation of a promising new voice among us.