The reason I love North American black metal is the crispness of their cleaner tones. Perhaps because bands making black metal in that part of the world are less beholden to the old, European aesthetic, perhaps because it’s a younger genre, or perhaps just because of chance and fashion, the cleaner parts on such albums tend to shine through much stronger through the mix. Guitars are usually percussive, their tones brighter and more prominent and clean vocals tend to be deep and resonating. I like those things in all my genres but it works especially well with black metal because it strikes such a sharp contrast with the heavier parts; a good, well made, clean interlude in the midst of blistering riffs is like a glass of cold water when you’ve been walking in the desert for hours.
Eneferens understand the importance of such contrast and use it heavily to create the moving force behind their third full length release, The Bleakness of Our Constant (as they have on previous releases, to varying degrees of success). Interestingly enough, the album even opens with such a passage, a piece of music that would usually feature at the end of such a release. Regardless, “Leave” is an effective album opener mainly because it leans into the second track so well; it gives context to the thunderous opening of “This Onward Reach”, which starts with a more classically North American take on black metal. However, the tide soon shifts back to more somber tones, as the middle of “This Onward Reach” is inhabited by a long, quiet passage which calls to mine Opeth‘s earlier/mid-era works in its lilting folk quality and the melancholy, understated vocals which live above it.
This back and forth pretty much dominates the first half of the album; The Bleakness of Our Constant moves constantly backwards and forwards on this scale. Thus, while the heavier parts do return at the end of the second track, it finally fades away into silence and calm before “Amethyst” opens with one of the better riffs on the album and the resurgence of harsh vocals. By the time the next track rolls around, we’re already firmly in the grips of the main disadvantage of the album: this back and forth has a sort of disorienting effect, almost a lulling one. You find yourself drifting in and out of the riffs at the end of “Amethyst” and the once-again-calm trappings of “Awake” fail to leave much of a mark. We’re saturated at this point and making out one evocative passage from the next becomes difficult.
Luckily, Eneferens (whether intentionally or not) dodge the bullet just before it fully hits. “Weight of the Mind’s Periapt” marks a sea change for the album. It’s opening notes are much slower and, together with the bottomless vocals which are soon added to the mix, channels downright funereal doom. While the tried and true contrasting structure makes its comeback further on the track, enough time is spent on this slower sound to refresh us. Both the ending of this track as well as the two closing track are much easier to appreciate then, “Weight of the Mind’s Periapt” standing like a monument square in the middle of the album and showing us the way we have come, saving the album from meandering further into its own structure and disappointing repetition.
Which is very fortunate because it would have been a shame for the genuinely great ideas on this release to be lost because they were overwhelmed by a structure too closely adhered to. Instead, we get a just varied enough release that manages to hold our attention, albeit losing it for a few moments there near its middle. Once it has it though, it constantly (get it) rewards continued listenings and further research into the depths of what is undoubtedly a rich album. Thus, The Bleakness of Our Constant is a good example of how important awareness to overall album structure is; it can literally make or break an album. Luckily, in this case, it did the former and we can add this release to the annals of great, moving, North American black metal.
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The Bleakness of Our Constant was released on October 26th on Bindrune Recordings. You can grab it from the band’s Bandcamp link above.