Cacophonous Records was a small British label that proved to be a
hotbed for successful Black Metal acts – it had spawned acts such as Dimmu
Borgir, Sigh, Cradle Of Filth, Bal-Sagoth and many others. Ebony Lake too were
there, although they were more like the backbenchers of the class. Well this
band has ruffled its feathers again with “In Swathes.....” – only their second
album since they first got together around 15 years ago.
At times the music displays hints of Chaostar and latter day
Arcturus but sounds much colder, darker and dissonant than these bands. This is
not your typical Black Metal fare – aside from the basic dynamics of the genre,
the album also contains unending tempo breaks, female chants, a wise range of
other backing vocals, trumpets and sound effects. Lots of sound effects. In
fact, one of the most infuriating aspects of this album is the excessive
layering of the music. For instance in ‘The Curious Cave of Deformities’ I
caught myself shouting at my CD changer to shut up, such was my irritation at
the range of indistinct background sounds that kept preventing me from focusing
on the music. “In Swathes…” will no doubt generate diametrically-opposed views
but one must concede that Ebony Lake have succeeded in looking at the Black
Metal genre from a distinct perspective.
The second half of the album is far superior – it’s less
atmospheric and more technical than the first half, almost as if the 2 halves
were written in 2 different periods of the band’s career. ‘Amethyst Lung
Concerto’, for example, is a brilliant track and its guitar riffing almost draws
parallels to Nocturnus. Despite the musical validity of “In Swathes...” one gets
the general impression that since the debut album, the energy accumulated by
Ebony Lake needed to be reined in more.
Organised chaos or chaotically organised? The debate is open...