(In mid-April the Munich-based “Oriental Extreme Metal” band Eridu released their expansive second album, and it caught the welcoming ear of our writer DGR, who prepared the following review.)
Heavy metal as a genre has been especially good at loaning itself out to bands who want to sound absolutely massive. The giant walls of distortion, the huge drums, the intimidating vocals, and big rumbling bass lines have often been a tool/weapon – depending on whose hands are wrapped around it – for groups to appear much larger in scope than they actually are. The ambition and reach of a genre like this are often used by groups wanting to appear cinematic in scale as part of their search for something grander than just the consistent ass-kicking that heavy metal is known for.
With groups like SepticFlesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse at the forefront of full-blown symphonies as backing and integral parts of the band – doing the heavy lifting on the melody end of things most of the time – and bands like Behemoth and Hate making a name for themselves by sounding gigantic despite their band photos basically just featuring ‘four dudes’, it’s interesting to see the bevy of groups that have cropped up on the in-between lines, sounding just as massive and embracing a lot of orchestral and ethnic instrumentation to help break them out from the usual pack of bruisers. They’re just as ambitious as many of their peers and often just as expansive, with releases that come in just short of needing a label in the corner that says ‘soundtrack to the major motion picture!’ on the right hand side of the cover art.
Germany’s Eridu are that style of band, with a weighty fifty-plus-minute release in Enuma Elish, tackling large subject matter and mythology with an equally heavy emphasis on both brutalizing rhythms and folk instrumentation and with a movie-maker’s eye for sound atmospherics and a metal fan’s taste for punching through walls.
When you join the class of ‘heavy metal album as musical journey’ you open yourself up to a common discussion though, one that’s mostly about whether said journey is worthy of a headbanger’s time, once again packing the travel bag and water bottle for another hike through the worlds of swirling guitar and piston-like rhythms.
You’ll have noticed that we mentioned some very large names in that opening spiel; we do so in order to set the goal posts and boundaries of the worlds we’re about to travel through. Eridu fancy themselves as an expansive death metal band whose tastes groove between atmospherics, full blackened-death, and a whole combination of symphonics and folk instrumentation in their songs. They have a heavy taste for stuff you would likely hear throughout the Middle Eastern and mid-Asian regions as well, and given their tackling of Babylonian creation myths throughout, this makes sense.
Eridu never lean fully into one particular style and often dance across quite a few of those genre lines at the same time. Given the impact of the four or five ‘big’ bands mentioned as goalposts and boundaries, it’s a given that a large collection of bands would sprout up in the wide swath of field available in between — a realm now populated by groups like Aeternam and Maysaloon, and now with Eridu and their sophomore album taking up their chunk of the land as well.
It is tempting for bands such as this to go for the big sonic landscapes when writing within these worlds. The short math equation boils down to ‘big songs = big run time’, but that isn’t the case with Eridu, as they keep most of their tracks within the three-to-five-minute range. Yes, they’re densely packed, but when you traverse the world of black/death metal hybrids – the band themselves just calling it ‘extreme’ – and then layer all of the unexpected and worldly instrumentation on top of it, the songs are going to come off as packed. They’re large blocks but not the type to test someone’s patience because of their length. Most of Enuma Elish‘s run time comes from the fact that there’s eleven tracks here – though a few of them are more scene-setting than the full-on fireworks extravaganza that you might expect.
A snapshot of the many modes that Eridu operates within Enuma Elish is available during the pairing of “Reign Supreme” and “Defiling The Tablet Of Destinies”, the album’s third and fourth songs. The first two tracks of Enuma Elish are solid but also have a ton of work to do with scene-setting and world-building; you can almost hear the machine being constructed and brought to life during “Cosmogeny” and “Enuma Elish”. The cogs-and-gears that become the Eridu machine aren’t fully locked into place until “Reign Supreme” kicks in with its lead folk-metal melodies, like you’re entering realms unknown. The song grows from there as well, augmenting itself with guest vocals and an angular rhythm section to close things out.
Afterward, during “Defiling The Tablet Of Desitnies”, is where you get the other part of Eridu in creature form, where everything is annihilation from beginning to end, two minutes shorter than its immediate predecessor but aggressive as hell and neck-snapping when it needs to be. Which is why throughout the album you’ll see that creature rear its head again in uglier highlights, like the apocalyptic “The 50 Names Of Marduk” later. That little segment is bookended by a run of instrumentals and one more expansive song in the vein of “Reign Supreme” as well, giving Enuma Elish the feeling of multiple movements that arrive in waves, each part bracketed by either its own instrumental song or basically nailgunned onto the end of an already much longer track.
Enuma Elish ranks as a pleasant discovery out of the mid-April pile of releases this year. Eridu‘s sophomore release has much going for it; when they lean fully into the extreme side of their death metal tastes they can be planet-devastatingly heavy and their combination of folk instrumentation and more expansive songwritings does manage to keep their mythology explorations interesting. Rarely does the album ever feel like it is testing your patience — there’s maybe one instrumental ‘set piece’ too many, but overall it’s a solid headbanging adventure.
You do get the sense of travelling through parts of the world you don’t quite recognize and that you’re going on an adventure, and at the same time, whether it be an incredibly strong ear for melody or a buzzsaw riff that could cut through stone, Eridu don’t lose sight of keeping things as heavy as they can get it.