Almost getting what you want and then having it snatched away just before you reach it is a terrible feeling. No matter how good the object of your desire appears to be, that sting when it gets pulled away can stay with you for a long time. That being said, it doesn’t detract from the sweetness of the denied fruit itself and should you one day acquire it, perhaps it will be all the more sweet for it. This metaphor is sadly apt for Eden Circus‘s debut album, Marula. The potential is definitely there but it feels as if it fails to come to fruition. The critical flaw lies somewhere within the composition phase, a hidden core which just feels incomplete.
OK, enough fruit metaphor. Let’s get to the music. At the basis of this release lies an extremely interesting and potent mix between dark progressive metal and alternative, in a style that very much reminds one of the recent wave of such bands from Australia. Names like Karnivool and Caligula’s Horse spring to mind immediately upon first listening to the album. To those unfamiliar with the style, it mixes heavier riffs that slightly hint towards metalcore while overlaying melancholic vocals on top of them. The instruments are also bound to quieter, more progressive passages that remind one of Tool. When done right, the formula can produce much of the heavyness we love in metal while tempering it with intelligence and emotional depth that spring from a more pensive well.
And for the most part on Marula it works damn well. More specifically, the beginning and end to this album are brilliant. Openers ‘Devoid of Purpose’ and ‘Comfort’, blending into each other at the edges, are immensely catchy. The opening to riff to ‘Comfort’ is one of the best on the album. Nor does the momentum stop here. The next track is ‘A Desert in Between’ and it’s easily the best track on this release. The vocals are adorned with an extra edge, really deepening the inflection which speaks of despair and sadness but also of power. The formula for the rest of the release is set here: powerful riffs open these tracks before giving way to a quieter segment in the middle only to return at the end for a crescendo.
The problem with the middle of the album is that this formula is hardly changed at all and that’s that compositional core we referenced at the start of this review. Instead of diving deep into this style and seeing how it can be twisted into interesting shapes, Eden Circus are content for now to let it lie. The result is that the middle tracks, all four of them, run together into this formless mass of Tool-like beats and riffs. Admittedly, they are well performed but there’s just not enough variation to keep the listener hooked in. Simple changes might have done this segment a lot of good: heavier parts in the middle of the song, variable c-parts and just more tweaking with the structure.
If this was the end of the story though, we could have easily written off this release as nothing too interesting. However, the last two tracks prevent us from doing that and fully cement that disappointment we’ll feel when the record is done. To put it bluntly, they’re fantastic. ‘Her Lovely Hands Upon the Black Earth’ is a close runner up for best track on the album and ‘Playing You’ is a perfect closer to the album. These two tracks, with their more interesting and varied structure, lead us to the final thought this album leaves you with. This band is going places. They have potential, they have interesting ideas and they can do great things. Maturity and experience will only bring them closer to the goal that, sadly, they miss with this release. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
Eden Circus’s Marula gets…