(Andy Synn gets filthy and furious with the new album from Floridian sludge-slingers Ether Coven)
What makes a band “big” these days?
Is it album sales? Streaming numbers? Social media reach?
Maybe, you might think, it’s being on a “big” label… but if that’s the case then why are Ether Coven, currently signed to Century Media Records/Good Fight Music, such a relatively unknown and firmly underground phenomenon?
The answer, of course, is that the band’s music is so unflinchingly ugly, so unforgivingly abrasive (yet tempered with moments of bleak, brooding beauty) that, no matter who they signed with, they were always going to be something of an acquired taste.
But while Ether Coven might not be “big” in the conventional sense of the word, there’s no denying that The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail is anything less than an absolutely massive album… in multiple senses of the word.
From its rib-cracking, whiplash-inducing opening of “Psalm of Cancer” through to the final cathartic scream of oppressive, doom-laden closer “Consequences of Self”, …the Nail pulls zero punches and gives absolutely no quarter, assaulting the listener with an almost unrelenting and unforgiving barrage of humongous riffs and heaving rhythms, rabid blastbeats and rolling kick-drums, that hits you right in the gut with an almost physical sense of punishing weight and mass.
But it’s not just the colossal, crushing heaviness and visceral, venom-spewing vocals – reminiscent of the best, and nastiest, output of bands like Phantom Winter, Lord Mantis, Grief, et al – which makes this album such a monster, there’s also an incredible sense of depth and dynamic to these songs, running the gamut from the depressive, droning death-dirge that is “Afraid & Suffering”, and the chaotic Crust-Metal attack of “Of Might & Failure”, to the soothing ambience of “Temple of Wu”, and beyond.
It’s also worth noting the almost overwhelming level of rage and anguish on display throughout this record, something which comes through not just in every harrowing howl and guttural growl, every spiteful shriek and scalding scream (aided and abetted by a number of gut-wrenching guest appearances scattered across the length and breadth of the album) but also in the occasional use of moody, morose clean vocals whose presence in songs such as the aforementioned “Afraid & Suffering” and the titanic twelve (almost thirteen) minute “The Warmth of Your Bathwater” serves to firmly tug on your already rent and ragged heartstrings.
Truth be told, the sheer size and scope of this record (see, I told you it was a “big” one) makes it difficult, if not impossible, to put it all into words here (I haven’t even mentioned the neck-wrecking nastiness of the brilliantly-named “God Hates Flags” yet), but one thing I can definitely say for sure is this… I doubt you’ll encounter many more albums as musically, emotionally, and physically devastating as this one this year.
PS – keep your eyes open for a Synn Report on these guys at some point, I feel like it’s high time we all took a deep-dive on their back-catalogue.