The EP has any number of uses – the long, standalone track, the nutty collection of oddities, experiments, and covers, or simply releasing a shorter collection of songs – and the format has been used to maximum effect of late.
For younger bands, however, the EP is perhaps best used as a way to make a thunderous first impression. It’s a quick, unintimidating time commitment, and easier to keep free of filler. Some bands smartly go this route, then, and here we have five current examples of bands making their debuts (not counting some demos) with an EP or seven-inch or something of the like. Some cases are merely quite promising, while others are already delivering a fully formed sound. The common thread is that all five bands saw the quality in going brief for their debuts, and didn’t waste the opportunity.
MALEFICENCE – REALMS OF MORTIFICATION
May 6: Blood Harvest
From whence they come: Brussels, Belgium.
Peddled wares: black/thrash at its most typical.
Why you should care: two songs that top the albums of a couple genre stalwarts.
On Realms of Mortification, Maleficence plays the black/thrash style about as close to the mean as is possible. While that may discourage some – the genre’s loyalists are about as lazy with their experimentation as those of any style – Maleficence has one major ingredient on their side: hunger (plus some fun, slightly phlegmy vocals). Both of these tracks, the Kill ‘em All-gone-blackened “Pyre of Penitence” and downright blazing “Of Mortification and Beyond,” display an energy and youthfulness that was all too missing on a pair of veteran black/thrash albums from earlier this year (lookin’ at you, Deströyer 666 and Desaster). The noteworthiness of this EP might have been increased by the dearth of quality for the style of late, but there’s little denying that there is some serious potential within.
KHANUS – RITES OF FIRE
May 6: I, Voidhanger Records
From whence they come: Oulu, Finland.
Peddling wares: weird, dark, death-ish metal.
Why you should care: because a band that is already this unique and befuddling on a debut is likely to keep up the weirdness.
Via drummer Lordt, Khanus is slightly connected to the Ved Buens Ende family. This is a networking stretch, obviously, but the music carries the kind of odd, “avant-garde” free-spiritedness heard in many of the bands that grew from that tree. For example, the vocals have Czral’s gruff, half-preached quality to them, and the riffs are almost constantly off-kilter in some way. Mostly, debut EP Rites of Fire never quite rocks in the conventional sense, even when it does, such as during the blasty moments of “The Daughters of Fire.” It’s noisy, heavy, blunt-edged, and often just bizarrely fun, calling to mind everyone from Gojira and Valborg to Lychgate in riff stylings and delivery. This isn’t constantly amazing, but the extra weird factor is so appealing, and ought to ensure that Khanus will at least always be interesting as they drop deeper into their vision.
LIGHT OF THE MORNING STAR – CEMETERY GLOW
June 24: Iron Bonehead
From whence they come: London, England.
Peddled wares: gloomy, blackened goth metal.
Why you should care: because it’s wonderfully corny in all the right ways.
Let’s get this right out in the open: Cemetery Glow, debut EP from Light of the Morning Star, is some cheesed up, morose stuff. This is so indebted to classic acts like The Sisters of Mercy and Tiamat that it could almost be plagiarism, but the blackened edge to the riffs is where it gains an extra level. The icy touches of dissonance help turn the band into a kind of sluggish Code if that band was fronted by Johan Edlund on laudanum. It’s that overtly gloomy, and works because it is so unabashed in aiming for this style. There is also that sense of tortured hookiness that one hears in later Tiamat and other such music, giving even the slowest passages a catchiness that can’t be denied. If the idea of “Bands Born Too Late for the OST of The Crow” as a genre appeals to you, then you’ve found your latest candlelight dinner music.
AU CHAMP DES MORTS – LE JOUR SE LÈVE
May 6: Debemur Morti Productions
From whence they come: Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Peddled wares: melodic, atmospheric black metal.
Why you should care: mature well beyond their experience.
France has produced black metal bands as varied as they are outstanding, and yet Au Champ Des Morts would likely fit in best in the ol’ Pacific Northwest over here stateside. Some of their slight post-isms remind of the Alcest family, but debut EP Le Jour Se Lève has none of the major key happiness, and instead comes closer to bands like Wolves in the Throne Room. It’s also downright gorgeous, sounding as mature and fully formed in every aspect as any debut in recent memory. Trem riffs shimmer, blast beats give off the requisite soft thunder of a distant storm, vocals blend perfectly into the atmosphere, and ambient moments include little flairs like bells. The two songs are also quite different in structure. “Le Jour Se Lève” uses a pair of solos to elevate the song’s journey, while “Le Sang, La Mort, La Chute” spends much of its time as a dirge, only elevating out of such territory when all elements are aligned for a crescendo. Bands of such limited experience ought not to have such a mastery of both the big picture and small details, but Au Champ Des Morts does, and as such has an exciting future.
CLOAK – CLOAK
June 20: Boris Records
From whence they come: Atlanta, Georgia, US of A.
Peddled wares: black’n’roll without the “n’roll” ruining things.
Why you should care: because there’s a shortage of bands that fit that description.
More than most bands, Cloak nails the black’n’roll style by not necessarily giving into either side of the coin, but by actually blending them. The cold, raw guitar tone is an essential of the style, obviously, but Cloak goes further by having some serious vitriol in the vocals of Scott Taysom (along with the perfect level of reverb). It’s a black metal furor that isn’t turned into some wink-wink-nudge-nudge shtick by the rock elements due to the smartness of the writing and quality of performances. Hookiness, deft but unflashy drumming, a classic rock mind towards the layering of black metal elements, and an understated approach to soloing are all delivered to top effect. These two songs almost have a touch of… nuance? On a black’n’roll release? Actually, yeah.