A Etilla: earnest plod, bombast and a slow pace make for a lacklustre soundtrack

Ea, A Etilla, Solitude Productions, Russia, CD SP081-14 (2014)

To have lasted 10 years and produced 5 albums purveying funereal instrumental soundtrack doom is no small achievement and Ea have done well pursuing what a lot of people (including myself) thought was a quirky and eccentric – oh all right, gimmicky – idea of interpreting the mysterious sacred writings of long-gone civilisations. They have ploughed their particular furrow and seem content to go on mining the ore they find. May they continue to strike gold no matter how hard or how long they dig.

Moving over to the US was a good idea as the music on “A Etilla” seems brighter, in sound anyway if not in mood, and has a sharp tone. The real challenge though is to make what is essentially a soundtrack to a movie yet to be made – “A Etilla” is one long track lasting nearly 50 minutes – a highly immersive and evocative description of a vast universe of soundscapes in all their glory, majesty and awe-inspiring wonder, that once actually existed here on Earth but has now disappeared forever. There should be purpose and a definite direction through a tapestry of incredible atmospheric musics, moods ranging from joy and hope to deep sorrow and despair, a sense of magnificent achievement along with brutal destruction, and above all a lesson for us mortals here not to make the same mistakes those ancients made that made them … well, ancient history.

What we get instead is a lot of very earnest plod and bombast which, if taken away, doesn’t leave much memorable music. There is a weird exotic ambience suggestive of Babylonian decadence in some parts of the album but that’s all there is that piques this listener’s interest. The pace rarely rises above foot-dragging and too often this gives an impression of a lack of purpose and a listlessness in the music. What energy might burst out in the percussion or riffing disappears very quickly. There are very few distinct iveriffs or melodies that might enliven the music and give it a definite identity.

The best parts of the album are where the doom metal goes away and all that we hear is cold-cave ambient wash, a fragile acoustic guitar melody and sighing ghost choirs.

The recording might have worked much better if it had been sped up or edited for length. As it is, it comes across as very tired and lacking in real passion. These days, finding gold isn’t enough; you have to polish it too.