Evoken – Beneath The Frozen Soil And Evoken Split

I have a very serious question to pose to you all: Was the Disney film Fantasia integral to your childhood? If so, then you can probably join me now in connecting most of metal’s subgenres to particular scenes from that film. (If not, then I am sorry.) It should go without saying that power metal is best represented by the hippopotami and alligators dancing ballet, while grindcore could be, let’s see, maybe the frantic (and vaguely racist, but let’s ignore that bit) mushrooms doing the “Chinese Dance” from The Nutcracker. Black metal is definitely the “Night on Bald Mountain” scene, though perhaps only if we ignore the scene’s dissolution into “Ave Maria,” as dawn’s churchgoers emerge triumphant over the rampaging forces of Satan’s darkness. The whole point of this exercise, though, is to make sure you agree with me that Evoken’s music, with all its heft and ageless grandeur, is quite clearly the appropriate soundtrack for the cataclysmic doom of the dinosaurs.

Evoken’s funeral doom/death is as crushing and unrelenting as it is patient and thoughtfully-crafted, so if you haven’t tracked these dudes down by now, here’s as good an introduction as any. They stand out for their ability to draw striking contrast between sections of vast, sparse ambience and lumbering, tense gravity. You can throw out as many reference points as you want, from Ahab to Asunder, Esoteric to Indesinence to Disembowelment; for my money, there is absolutely no band better at this brand of utterly despondent metallic gloom. The guitars mope along gloriously, the drums are pounded no more than is necessary, and the ghastly deep vocals have clearly been dredged-up from the deathless depths of some fell chasm.

The Antithesis of Light will probably remain my go-to album when I need an Evoken fix, but their four songs on this split are no trifling matter. “Omniscient” sports subtle synth touches throughout, and the plaintive clean guitar lines that come in around the seven-minute mark are surprisingly emotional, sounding a bit like an ultra-slow-motion outtake from Disintegration-era Cure. The synths approximate an effectively martial string cadence during parts of “Vestigial Fears,” while the stretched-out middle section of “The Pleistocene Epoch” is a perfect demonstration of how to create a miasmic black hole out of the repetition and reordering of just a few notes into a family tree of riffs.

But say, just for the hell of it, why not continue comparing ultra-serious doom metal to children’s animated films?  In this case, let’s talk Pixar. You know how all of Pixar’s films are immediately preceded by an animated short, which is usually quick and droll but ultimately not all that satisfying? (I will assume you are nodding.) Well, although the order is reversed on this split, Beneath The Frozen Soil’s tunes play like the gentle-smirk-eliciting short before Evoken’s inspired and surprisingly emotional full-length feature. This Swedish band plays, well, a relatively similar style of doom/death as Evoken, although the vocals are closer to a black rasp than the crypt-deep doom stylings of Evoken. The two-part “Monotone Black” is suitably ambitious, introducing some whining guitar bends, but its plodding melodies and oddly-timed stutter riff get quite monotonous. Still, chances are Beneath The Frozen Soil would come across much better on a solo release instead of following up the dogged professionalism of Evoken.

So, if you’re looking for a suitably morose soundtrack to these frigid winter months, or if you’ve ever found yourself yearning for some bleak heavy metal to listen to while you watch old children’s movies on mute, then friend, this may just be the split for you.

Posted by Dan Obstkrieg

Happily committed to the foolish pursuit of words about sounds. Not actually a dinosaur.

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