(Andy Synn takes us into the weekend with his review of the first album from the UK’s Enochian Theory.)
Hello again ladies and gents, here’s another taste of something a little different that barely comes under the site’s remit, yet I feel will appeal to the more expressive and open-minded of you all the same.
Enochian Theory are a UK prog band of expansive ambition and mesmerising melody where majestic cleans rule the roost and growled vocals are definitely the exception, rather than the rule. Very much art for art’s sake, the enigmatic complexity of each song’s serpentine structuring is offset by the soaring, infectiously melodic vocals of frontman Ben Harris-Hayes, whose emotive delivery and harmonious, scintillating lyrical expositions contribute to making the album that rarest of things, both an immediate pleasure and a long-term investment of impressive quality and intriguing depth. The candid, at times even painfully raw, nature of the singing gives the whole expansive, captivating affair a recognisably human element which serves as an anchor point no matter how convoluted or complex the music may become.
When absorbed in the album itself, I actually struggled to compare it directly to any external influence, so distinctive is its sound, although links can be drawn, very favourably, to fellow British prog luminaries Anathema and Porcupine Tree, along with the solo works of PT’s own Steven Wilson. Yet of greatest interest to the readers of this site will be the sonic connections to the emotionally complex solo work of Devin Townsend, the raging ambience of latter-day Isis, and the mind-bending instrumental excursions more commonly attributed to Tool. Yet Enochian Theory themselves are very much a singular entity, these comparisons barely scratching the surface of what the three-piece actual sound like in full-flight. (more after the jump .. . .)
Each of the three primary instrumentalists on the album perform impeccably. The drumming varies between pounding, metallic precision, soothing percussive vibrations and raucous, tumultuous flailing. The bass lines meander seductively with cool self-assurance, twisting and bending to fill every hole in the sonic-tapestry, while the guitars are a multi-faceted dream, peeling off a seemingly endless variety of shimmering chords and soaring leads, sludgy, dominating riffs, and haunting sections of ethereal ambience with vital, life-affirming intensity
Yet the group’s ace-in-the-hole is the ephemeral “Lost Orchestra”, through which the band arrange and compose a wealth of synthetic strings and electronic paraphernalia with which to accent their music. Vast in scope and epic in ambition, these artfully incorporated elements completely alter the group’s aesthetic and direction, organically rooted deep in the core chambers of their sound. Most impressive of all is that live, the band, though only a 3-piece, reproduce these vast, enigmatic soundscapes in their entirety, using an array of triggers and pedals to unleash the orchestral majesty without missing a beat, producing a massive wall of crystal-clear sound and refined dynamics.
Following the dream-like intro of “Every Ending Has A Beginning”, the album immediately demonstrates its lofty and stunningly realised ambitions with the interwoven, three-part “Dimensionless Monologue”. Part 1, “Tedium”, consists of a smooth and hypnotic tapped guitar melody over which Harris-Hayes croons and whispers with honesty and conviction. Before long the song erupts into life with a series of clattering metallic chords which build to a stunning crescendo, leading into part 2, “The Dimensionless Monologue”, which ebbs and flows between strident orchestration and moody, bass-led introspection before introducing some crunchy, tightly constrained riffage, playing knowing games with timing and structure as intricate arrangements of strings and spiky guitar melodies swirl wantonly around them. The coda to the three-part composition, “T.D.M.” offers some stirring ambient noise and achingly beautiful clean guitar work that recalls Devin Townsend at his most calm and reflective, before re-introducing the introductory guitar melody to smoothly tie the whole piece together as a coherent whole.
There is a palpable metal influence running through the album, rearing its ugly head in the percussive, growling fury of “The Fire Around The Lotus” and the flowing light and shade of “Apathia”, which mixes up a doom-laden cocktail of rumbling riff salvos and clean-picked melodies, around which the eponymous Lost Orchestra weaves an intricate series of orchestral themes and weaving melodies. Even the introverted “Movement”, where the simple and evocative refrains of strings and piano build towards an explosion of light and sound, sees the vocals reach a blazing pinnacle of cathartic emotional expression, transcending clean beauty to unleash a series of raw and wounded growls amidst a techni-colour storm of winding, supple riffs and blinding orchestration.
On the other end of the scale, songs like “At Great Odds With” and “Waves Of Ascension” draw their power from another source, their flowing dynamic building in successive waves of sweeping, enigmatic force. The former see the band moving from glorious orchestral excesses to echoing and fragile emotive nuances, the soft strains of introspective vocals and mesmerising clean guitars building steadily, layer upon layer, to create a monumental melodic monolith of grace and glory. The latter sees the band dancing elegantly and effortlessly along the line between graceful progressive melody and righteous riff-fury. Moving from expressive minimalism to grandiose eloquence, the song seems ten times its real stature, a colossus of progressive diversions and heart-felt paeans of loss and longing, whose reach is far and wide and whose hands scrape the skies above.
The epic finale to the record, “A Monument To The Death Of An Idea”, closes the album with a triumphant flourish, engaging in an almost reckless exploration of the band’s progressive muse. From the calm swell of acoustic oceans to the thundering avalanche of metallic riffage, an infectious energy permeates the song, the Lost Orchestra weaving a magical spell of sweeping strings and ringing, reverberant synths with joyous abandon. Just listen for that short, striking string interlude in amongst the pummelling distorted riffage and try not to smile at the sheer audacity of it all.
Truly, this is an album to experience and absorb as one complete entity, a totality of musical expression that flows seamlessly and languidly from start to finish, flush to its depths with ideas and individuality, and moves calmly and confidently with mesmerising grace, concealing its deceptive power, bristling with untapped energy and emotional vitality.
Sample Song: “The Dimensionless Monologue – All 3 Parts”
EDITOR’S NOTE: To find out more about Enochian Theory, visit them on facebook (here) or at the band’s visually stunning official site. Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilo was originally released in 2009 only in Europe on the band’s own label, and was re-released worldwide in September 2010 by Mascot Records. The album art, by the way, is killer.