The majority of the ‘USBM’ scene has until recently produced little more than dollar-store odes to ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, right down to the intentionally low-quality production and strophes of descending tremolo riffs. Yet, after years of simply imitating its idols, North American black metal is finally finding its own voice. Perhaps spurred by backlash against the very same bands who inspired them or black metal’s commercial success in general, a newer style began to foment, one arguably even more dark and foreboding than its progenitor.
One such group is Eyes of Ligeia. They been lurking on the outskirts of this movement for some years now, tweaking their style from album to album to better express their bleak, occultist liturgies. In the past, these have included the usual references to Lovecraft, Crowley, and Poe (consider the name of the group, after all) but also an unexpected nod towards John Dryden. For this fourth full-length, ‘A Fever Which Would Cling To Thee Forever’ main songwriter Dante brought on three additional members, and their support lends Eyes of Ligeia considerable density and punch.
Dante’s style of songwriting tends to be quite long and filled with persistent, recurring melodies, but at no point can this album be considered either ‘epic’ or ‘accessible’, even by black metal standards. The stylistic approach is simply too unconventional for either: too droning to be majestic, too wandering to be catchy. Some songs even alter their volume, dropping a few notches and forcing the listener to turn up the dial to hear what happens (which turns out to be dark ambience and gnawing vocalizations).
To indulge for a moment: one might almost see Dante as a Gollum figure, reaching into the waters of his underground lakes, seizing these melodies like fish from below. He pulls them up, convulsing, to the surface, where he appraises and ravages their bodies before and tossing the bones aside to go in search of others. ‘A Fever…’ does not suffer from this unpredictability, though, by any means. On the contrary, an undercurrent of consistent momentum keep us attuned to its progress, and it is simply too vile to tune out.
The production, too, is unique, favoring a sonorous drum sound and prominent rhythm guitar that drowns out the already quiet vocals that rasp indecipherably in the distance (again, much like I imagine Gollum might). Initially, the sound of ‘A Fever…’ is disappointing, but subsequent listens reveal its subtleties and the vocal approach begins to make sense (though I suspect for some that with enough repeated listens it could again wear thin).
No single track can communicate the essence of this release, however long it may be (and long they are, at around 7:30 on average). Founded upon the abstract, subtle dissonance of this burgeoning American style, Eyes of Ligeia have crafted a starkly contrastive work that is as addictive as it is opaque.
At times comparable to the bewildering Ruins of Beverast or the implacable Vrolok, ‘A Fever…’ is an album that escapes description and must be heard to be understood. In what is one of its strongest assets, though, total comprehension will never be fully achieved.
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