Ottawa blackened death metallers, Eclipser, received a positive response to their debut 2019 album, Pathos, even if the consensus agreed that their brand of atmospheric black metal was a little predictable. Now they’ve roped in Fuck the Facts legend, Topon Das, to mix and master their latest EP and have beefed up their sound with a strong dose of post-metal aggression. It may be only fourteen minutes in length, but the five songs on this release will suck the lashes off your eyelids if you get too close to the chaos.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on death metal over the last couple of years, you’ll notice that many bands are now venturing far away from the standard pentatonic framework of power chords and major scale phrasing into a more dissonant realm of atonal shapes and scrapes. Switzerland’s Schammasch and Australia’s Portal can take some credit for pioneering this style, although Voivod were the first, and noise rock bands like Sonic Youth and post-punk icons, Killing Joke, were doing this years before the metal world took notice. Now every black metal artist tries to play out of key in a nasty distorted tone that would make a dog whimper. Opener, ‘Pages’, is a good example of this approach with unsettling chords belching from the amps like a power station under attack from a hurricane. No one can doubt the intensity of the music, but the hardcore ‘screamo’ technique adds a welcome change to the goblin vocals of black metal, and the band do a stellar job of honouring their atmospheric roots with tremolo riffs that threaten to snap the strings of the guitar. The anti-religious lyrics are even less subtle: “We cannot be saved/ No matter what the pages say/ We worship thee in vain/ And live our lives in fear and shame/ Indoctrinated misery.” You get the picture.
‘Matternaught’ poses a more interesting question. Is this new dissonant style a death metal take on mathcore? Bands like Blindfolded and Led to the Woods lead the way on this contemplation, and Eclipser are happy to explore the same territory. You might even call ‘Carry Your Burden’ a post-hardcore song, although the intricate dual-guitar rhythms play different parts with a wonderful peculiarity and make it a worthwhile listen for this reason alone. The most metal they sound is on ‘To Never Wake Again’. For the first time we get some classic heavy metal swagger among the doom metal noise and avant-garde posturing. Eclipser are not afraid to extend their ears to all forms of aggressive guitar music, including the unforgiving ferocity of Neurosis.
The only thing that might spoil your listening experience is the anti-intellectual approach to religion. ‘Fathomless’ is nihilistic and gloating in its atheism to the point of irrelevance. “Creating gods in our image/ Falsely envisioned/ Spewing superstition/ Of fictional wisdom.” Sorry, chaps, but you need to be better than that. Don’t give us sentiments that chime with teenagers raised in secular societies, where religion has few established traditions.
Leaving aside the lyrical themes, Pages is a strong piece of work and one that bodes well for the future direction of this band. Eclipser mix black metal, hardcore and death metal with great coherence and know history is on their side for the next couple of years.
Release Date: 28/05/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Pages, To Never Wake Again
Suggested Further Listening: Altarage – Succumb (2021), Schammasch – Triangle (2016), Nixil – All Knots Untied (2021)