Style: Progressive Doom/Death Metal
Release Date: 27 Apr 2018
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives
I kicked off Apocalypse Later Music Reviews with my favourite album from last December and I've reviewed an album from each of 2018 and 2019 every weekday since. It seems appropriate that I wrap up 2018 on the last day of January with another personal favourite from last year that doesn't seem to have found a lot of coverage.
The band are Eternal Candle and they play doom/death out of Tehran, Iran, hardly a particularly well known metal capital. They have a progressive edge too, not too surprising given that two key members also play for the prog metal band Heterochrome, who released their debut album in 2017.
This is Eternal Candle's debut album, following a string of singles, one of them a Novembers Doom cover and only one of which is represented here, 2017's A Dismal Inhabitant. Everything else is new but there's plenty of it. This is a lengthy album, almost hitting the hour mark, but it never gets old.
The Ripped Soul is a great way to start the album, after a neat atmospheric intro called In the Absence of Us (there's another one later on called The Void which is even better). The Ripped Soul kicks off with almost tribal drumming, which leads into an intriguing mixture of harsh growls, clean vocals and spoken word sections. I liked the interplay immediately but it gets even better as the album runs on.
Throughout the album, the harsh vocals mostly sit over the denser musical sections, while the clean voice floats over softer backing, suggesting a sort of conversation between different characters. I don't know if there's an overriding story here but this approach suggests that there could well be, even though there are no suggestions that this is a concept album.
Sick Romance plays consistently with The Ripped Soul, merely adding some whispers and more overt melodies, but then Eternal Candle up their game even further with a couple of achingly heavy tracks. A Path to Infinity starts softly with quiet echoing guitar but gets heavier as it runs on. The heaviness is right there at the beginning of A Dismal Inhabitant, though, which is gloriously crushing from the outset.
These two tracks play out like a journey that starts simply with a quiet decision full of hope for success, but soon becomes dangerous, and, as A Dismal Inhabitant kicks in, clearly deadly. Even the contemplative moment four minutes in is endowed with danger courtesy of a darkly playful bass from Armin Afzali.
After I don't know how many times through, I think Afzali is the unsung hero of this album. He's not the most obvious participant, as the vocals lead it, courtesy of Babak Torkzadeh and Mahdi Sorrow. Josef Habibi is a fantastic drummer, not only keeping the beat but muscling in to take the lead at a number of points. The guitars come courtesy of Sorrow and Amir Taghavi and they're a joy, not only in heavier sections or the melancholy ones but in the quiet ones too. However, the more I listen, the more I catch little things that Afzali is doing that elevate a number of tracks.
If A Dismal Inhabitant was the darkest moment in the journey unfolding here, The Void marks the point where that starts to turn. Hear My Cry has a confidence in the guitar line that soars over the threats and My Turn, almost inevitably given its title, returns hope to the equation, even as the lyrics and the title of the next song, Prayer of the Hopeless, suggest otherwise. Maybe it's a fresh start. Eternal Candle sing in English but My Turn is the song in which I caught most words.
Without the lyrics, though, I have to feel this album and it's a notably emotional creation. I found it an easy one to lose myself inside. While not every track is as interesting as the last, there's something in each of them to explore. Prayer of the Hopeless may be the least interesting for four minutes, for instance, but then some of the best melodies and guitarwork of the album show up to elevate its end.
I've found myself coming back to this album a lot and I keep finding new things in it. It's not the greatest album of 2018, but I'd argue that it's one of the most underrated.