It is always exciting to go treasure hunting in our site´s promo inbox. The thrill of opening a new chest full of sparkling diamonds. And the delight of finding one with gems that glimmer and sparkle, resting on layers of black velvet like this debut release from Euphrosyne. It is pure relish. They call it an EP, but that´s an understatement. They describe themselves as Post Black Metal and that´s also an understatement.
With visionary song writing these Athenians release an album that defies all genre descriptions, although firmly based in Black Metal with gusts of Symphonic Metal. The sound of the distorted arpeggio riffing upon textures of Dark Wave synthscapes leaves an impression of heavy, yet transparent and beautiful, ethereal Black Metal music, strengthened and led by the ever-changing pitches and styles sung by the vocalist.
It is just fitting that they name their first song “Black Opal”, because when you look at such an opal it might seem black at first sight, but it really contains all the colors of the rainbow. It is not what it seems at first, just like the music on this album. The name of the band is fitting too as Euphrosyne is often pictured dancing together with her sisters Thalia and Aglaea - three sisters that in Greek mythology were overseeing all feasts and dances, while the name of the album is the Greek female death demon, the personification of a violent death on the battlefield. From these two opposites, the album´s multi-textured music draws inspiration, interchanging between mirth and doomed misery.
The first short track, “Black Opal” seeps slowly forward with a vast breezy synth soundscape underneath a slow tempo saxophone playing a melodic theme. From the far away horizon a guitar is heard, and in a strange way it reminds me of when Jan Garbarek interacted with his saxophone to a wind harp on the album Dis.
The second song, “Pale Days” starts with a dense rhythm section in blast mode accompanied by synths flowing in the background and led by distorted guitar riffs. Harsh, desperate vocals rise up from the heavy, yet ethereal, sonics and lead towards a part where synths in violin mode give a breather. Then there is a new charge with arpeggios and a clear strong female vocals emerge, ”Empty within/ Empty without/ Entering the void/ Love left unspoken”. Here we are at the hallmark of Euphrosyne´s music: the stunning versatile vocals by co-founder Efi Eva. Her voice is able to take on every range or style from whispering via harsh growling to clean strong Symphonic Metal-style vocals. There are no barriers for her voice and it evolves into a main instrument forming the atmosphere and the impressions throughout the album; from anger to hope to remorse. On this track, as well as on the others, she shifts effortlessly between diverse styles.
But it would not have been complete without the ingenious guitar work from co-founder Alex Despotidis which fits so well to the different vocal styles. On this track, and others, his guitar work shifts between heavy riffing, tremolo styles and a vast quiet part bringing on an echoing solo embraced by synths that meet up with whispers from the singer. Here, the layers of guitars form a melodic theme before there is an upsurge towards harsh, but nevertheless beautiful, vocals shapeshifting into soaring vocalizing on top of symphonic textures.
The third song, ”When My Fears Conquered All”, has vocals that differ between whisper, angry and clean relaxed but also a bit remorseful. The opening of the track is fascinating as it seems like the guitars and rhythm section struggle to wriggle their way into a pattern that can start the song. They try different approaches before they adapt to a relaxed, but fast paced, drift supporting whispering vocals embraced by synths, singing “My fears were lurking in the attic/ All my life they were wandering around.” And with the next lines “Trying to find salvation/ Oh, all in violence.” it morphs into a heavy part with harsh vocals supported by heavy arpeggios induced into the light drifting sonics. The track alters course with distorted tremolo, hard hitting drums over the heavy riffs and clear, echoing vocals soaring over the sonics purveying a sense of elongated shift until it fast-forwards with angry vocals as the bass is grooving fast and the drums before it once more lifting up the clean vocals. It is halted by a high pitched solo guitar taking over for the vocals until it fades away while angry, weary vocals shout ”I have felt enough of this sickening war!”.
”Sister Of Violence” is a fascinating track as it, after the harsh riffing guitar, initiates the song, throws itself right into Death Metal sonics with growling vocals, ”Sister of violence/ A knife by your throat/ Shivers of silence/ Placed on our road”. The song is fast and might be the densest and heaviest one on the album. It comes with a full blown hard solo guitar embraced by the riffs and supported by the blast rhythm section. But it changes and the soundscape is once more sustained by synths and the vocals switch to dreamy before a really fast hard rock´n´roll solo takes over. The vocals dip back into Death Metal vocals sounding more and more desperate, almost disapproving in the wall of sound and the ever-present synths. Again, the song changes with elegic clean vocals contrasting the hard guitars and the blasts from the rhythm section before it ends.
”Sunbringer” is a beautiful short piece of music which serves as a lull, an adagio, placed among the complex textures of the its predecessor and antecedent. It floats forward with guitar strings and synths and the melody surges upwards, just like the adagio in Mahler’s 5th symphony, inducing the same waft of mellowness. It streams slowly forward until it fades away.
The next song ”Within the Ages” carries the smoothness of the previous song over to its opening before a fast heavy arpeggio riff rips open the sense of quietness as growling vocals rises up to lead the way. The melody ebbs and flows with small shifts in tonality as it races forward towards a calming shift in the sonics that opens up a vast soundscape with an acoustic and an echoing solo guitar and clean vocals with a sense of remorseful wishes - sung very beautifully, ” I’ve lost everything I believed in/ Fears always resonate”. A soft guitar takes the lead to surge upwards to a section that brings the calming saxophone back over intricate layers of music. It plays in harmony with the now growling vocals that glide into vocalizing as the music rises to a beautiful, vast, multi-faceted crescendo. This is pure beauty, astonishingly well done.
The album closes with ”Keres” using a mellow piano paired with synths in cello mode to make a contemplative ending to the release. And even if the name refers to the female death demons found in Greek mythology, demons of violent deaths for doomed people in battlefields. Sadly, these demons are busy these days.