Yama-uba encountered at the low-peak of Sněžka — An gothic metal band that’d eventually task themselves with purposeful themes beyond their first couple of releases, Prague-borne sextet Et Moriemur have always met normative standards in their expression of sorrowful death/doom metal’s bone deep influence yet their ideas have arguably evolved quicker than their muscle memory for atmospheric doom’s most typical standards and practices. Their fourth full-length album nonetheless manages to make quite average compositional ideas appear memorably avant-garde via the strong contrasting colors of this lite cultural musical infusion. ‘Tamashii No Yama‘ is emotionally ravaged as European gothic death/doom so often is and, effectively so despite their tone deafness to the Japanese musical tradition and its own broad set of emotional timbre. The listening experience is just ‘weird’ enough of a mash-up that it becomes memorably over the top, an oddly directed walk through emotional uncertainty which manifests as a sort of ungainly beauteousness in motion.
Though I’d felt the band had done fine-enough work on their exploration of tragedian Greek themes on ‘Epigrammata‘ back in 2018, I’d had similar sentiments in mind in review of that record, too; Suggesting the “despondent atmosphere and the heroic hymnal tone of the record” ultimately worked but didn’t provide a strong enough dynamic to tell the intended “story” of the piece. In contrast this record offers an experience that works for the sake of its displaced conjoin of two worlds that are tonally awkward in pair. In fact ‘Tamashii No Yama‘ has little do with Japanese musical tradition beyond Et Moriemur‘s intermittent use of various pentatonic scales in the Japanese mode, modulating them to fit their major inspiration in romanticist European gothic death/doom metal of the late 90’s, which takes some obvious phrasal influence (as in, vocal patternation) from a certain side of Rotting Christ as well as the heavier side of British gothic doom in the mid-to-late 90’s as it’d evolved alongside the nascent progressive metal ambitions of groups like Opeth. The first several pieces of the album take their sweet time in reveal of this, heavily implying theme before striking into the almost too… -normal- melodic motions of “Oshima”. The idea is there and those first three songs are onto something which has plenty of merit yet it soon becomes clear that this is more a strike at progressive extreme doom rather than any serious intermingling of musical motif.
The choices of tone and various levels of refrain used throughout ‘Tamashii No Yama‘ eventually begin to echo the more ambitious prog-black works of Sigh to some degree, though certainly not the pace, as we reach the notable crawl and (eventual) bloom of “Izu” and surreal, cluttered waltzing of “Nagoya”. At this point the album’s earliest implications of quite a grand theme now presents as unfocused, falling back upon gothic metal tendency rather than doubling down upon their off-center leaning ideas. This almost-there transition into progressive metal climes ends up being far more interesting than Et Moriemur‘s dramatized tribute to Japanese aesthetics yet the whole experience is again nonetheless satisfyingly surreal. Perhaps confusing in its unrequited marriage of celebratory, heritage-bound major scale dalliance and an otherwise gloomy atmosphere the shmaltzy ~fourteen minute closure provided by “Takamagahara” does everything it can to present a sort of funeral doomed ‘epic’ endpoint and instead drones on without satisfying conclusion to its opening phrases, building to a certain point and then fading in dull waves for its last 4-5 minutes.
Perhaps I am simply the kind of person whom appreciates that a square peg can become stuck in a round hole and make a neat shape with a ‘wrong’ combination but, I did ultimately enjoy ‘Tamashii No Yama‘ for the odd, fairly unique sensation of the full listen. There are a few songs I’d simply skipped over after a handful of listens and I didn’t find anything personally redeeming within the compositions themselves, yet I was still compelled to re-listen several times in appreciation of their bold strike at this keen idea. Though they likely intend to continue touring many more worldly ideas for inspiration I do think that something brilliant could ultimately come of iteration upon these themes and ideas. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Tamashii No Yama|
|LABEL(S):||Transcending Obscurity Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 8th, 2022|
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