From epic and gothic to funeral and death-infused, 2015 was a banner year for doom metal of all forms. Perhaps lost amidst the bigger names that released albums last year was France’s Ixion, purveyors of an atmospheric brand of melancholy that ought to appeal to fans of many of those bigger names, while carving out a minor niche of their own. Mostly, sophomore effort Enfant de la Nuit is a very soothing album, the kind of extreme-tinged metal perfect for settling into a good book.
The initial impression one gets is a bit of Shape of Despair light. After all, the sorrowful combination of deep death growls, layered synths, lone guitar leads, and oodles of atmosphere leaves little doubt that these guys grew up listening to albums like Angels of Distress. Where Ixion differs, however, is largely in the compactness of their tracks. Only two of these nine songs are over six minutes in length, and as such, they do not delve into the long stretches of fully despaired funeral doom that their Finnish brethren have mastered.
Ixion’s use of synths is another trait that moves them further from actual funeral doom terrain. The pinched tones, obviously fake piano, bleeps, bloops, and pulses give off far more of a spaced-out, Vangelis vibe than that heard in most funeral bands. The formula used for the majority of Enfant de la Nuit is a combination of these sounds with that atmospheric doom/death/funeral-light, resulting in quite the relaxing, mildly trippy 50ish minutes.
That’s not to say that there aren’t variations, as there is a subtle arc to the album, especially during the second half. “The Passenger” ups the dynamics, adding some of the album’s only double kick drum activity while almost doing a “My Dying Bride in space” kind of thing. “Promised Land” builds further with the riffiest material on the album and one pretty chilling lead harmony that might be the album’s coolest (and most important) moment. “Odyssey” then acts as a bit of an exhalation after this (very relative) burst of activity, closing things out in typically beautiful fashion.
Upon close inspection, however, the album does have a few faults. Most notably, the clean vocals often lack oomph, particularly when trying to be extra emotive, as during “Allegiance.” Additionally, and perhaps due to my being used to the thick tones of so much funeral doom, the heavy, simple doom riffs seem light by comparison, limiting the depth of the band’s sound. These aren’t damning faults at all, and in the case of the vocals, the mix is often used to blend them in more than leave them naked.
All in all, these few faults have little impact on the overall enjoyment of the album, mostly because this slice of soothing atmospheric doom isn’t necessarily meant to be treated with close inspection, but passive attention. By design, Ixion’s music is rarely gripping, but subtle escapism that should make a great addition to many a doom collection, particularly for those that kept reading past all of that synthesizer talk.