Funeral doom metal is a difficult genre to master. That’s perhaps why one can only name a handful of funeral doom albums that are classics and truly timeless. The works of Finland’s funeral triptych Skepticism, Thergothon and Shape of Despair certainly spring to mind while the UK’s Esoteric lay claim to some of the finest funeral doom records ever committed to tape. The issue may also be with the very definition of funeral doom. Where is that line that a band crosses from being simply doom and becoming something else? There may be a case for certain records by bands like Mourning Beloveth but these are the sort of arguments that have no end.
The mysterious Russian entity Ea has been a captivating one with a collection of utterly dejected funeral doom over the last few years, 2010’s Au Ellai being a particular highlight. Of late, they (or he or she) have tampered with its sound to a degree and even added some brisker tempos to the mix but still maintaining the core doom sound. This has come of age on A Etilla.
One 49 minute track makes up this offering, not unlike previous efforts where expansive 20 or 30 minute dirges were the preferred medium for Ea to envelope the listener in wretched darkness.
Beginning in familiar territory with snail’s pace guitars and drums, Ea soon start to pick up the pace, twisting into a very different band for an early climax that’s almost post metal in its vast scope. Of course, it’s a fleeting moment as Ea soon recoil into bleak darkness once again. Soul crushingly slow lead guitars like Mourning Beloveth, circa Dust, dominate the din, slowing down this wretched dirge a second at a time.
Vocally the album retains the same grim croons and coarse growls that characterised Au Ellai, which are kept to a minimum on A Etilla and it works to its advantage, only entering sporadically to break any possible monotony of the guitars but never disrupting the tone.
Around the 43 minute mark is where the song hits a bleeding heart end where the sickly gloom is almost too much to stomach. This is funeral doom in excelsis, proving what a formidable act Ea have become with their doom craft. Essential doom for 2014.