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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Sludge: enskye - "Eosphorus/Quintessence"

Hurricane season decided to show up. Strong winds, heavy rain, and repeated ass-whippings don't even begin to describe what these storms impose. And when the air and water decide to creep on earth, all elements trade blows to create one hell of a problem. Board up your windows and pack some bottled water, but also prepare for the mindfuck possibility of losing everything.

I can't speak on the residual effects of tropical cyclones once they lose their steam, but the American Southeast isn't the only region affected. It seems four dudes from New York's Hudson Valley are creating a storm of their own. Post-metal sludge slingers enskye have released a five-track homage to air, earth, ether, water, and fire that builds and crashes, whispers and screams; progressively shifting from serene to apocalyptic. Eosphorus/Quintessence is one saturated collection, but listeners are gonna have a hard time driving away.

A wintry wind and somber pluck open the album on Soul Meets Sky (the rise). The growing haunt of a storm only magnifies the isolation. Aaron Weseman's whispers float under the crashing weather before yielding to fuzzy, agonized riffs spat with deliberate pace. It's a huge mood shift of collapsing trudge, as the track wrests its lament and chokes it with ebbs and flows. Remaining true to itself, the sound is slow and murky, while Phil Motl's drumwork grows into flurry under Dan Pizappi's space-candy guitar goodness. The elements bounce off one another, blending chaos and beauty. Louder than bombs and bigger than God... this is gonna be good.

A noticeable trend spanning this disc is the gentle onsets. Aetherial (the bridge between heaven and earth) presents a quiet strum punctuated by cymbal taps, with a distant howl that doesn't worry you quiet yet. Instrumental and haunting, guitars lift and hover like dense fog awaiting the sun. Ah, but nothing gold can stay. Distortion grows and thickens, managing to somehow get cleaner and grimier all at once. Acoustic contributions hit like a spacy, slow-motion slab of Earth drubbing your temple. Trepidation breeds restraint, effectively capturing Aetherial's stripped, lurid air.

Down in Death Valley (an ode to gaia) floats and buzzes on reverb until a swampy Whiskey Creek banjo welcomes itself in. The Weedeater rehearsal breaks to enter a chanted, Persian occupancy. When Weseman deadpans "Nobody knows... the secret I hold," you're torn on whether or not you want any elaboration. The lyrics here are the album's best, climbing a growl toward vacuum-echoed screams that claw themselves free. Repetitive and heavy under the weight of drums and Cameron Burkhart's low-end bass, enskye return to the broken-wrist flutter of the opening track. Mob mentality vocals canvas the dirge; we're not just witnessing death and loss, we're also preparing for it.

Soft, rolling waves highlight somber tones on The Great Abyss (poseidon's lament). Gorgeous guitar hovers over sharp rocks on a sound that's not hopeful, but not quite hopeless either. But these waves are quickly slugged unapologetically in a sludge-metal stomp. The vocal whisper/scream tandem courses through a song enveloped by that which is greater than itself. Hard, heavy hits pause and repeat; we can't deny the waves are eternal, but the new beginnings these waves bring are only possible when the old ones drown.
As Weseman assures "A cleansing, a purging," we're invited by prog-metal shadows countering the clouds. enskye here demonstrate their broad scope and sea of varying influences.

The guitar warp of Abyss leads into Infernus (the fall), a dark, down autumn of one's life. This is the sludgiest track on E/Q, but the preceding slow-grown buzz and doom-drum confidence are pretty fucking cool. Boiling and teeming with a foreboding menace, an abrupt and staggering drop of monster riffage and sludge grind is executed remorselessly. Pizappi's buzzsaw licks highlight this twelve-minute brick. Rolling repetition picks up the pace, spiraling downward on vocals that become a whirlpool of loss and despair. Heavy and choppy with a shift between woodshop uncertainty and a steep hill-tumble, the dynamic is repeated and celebrated. Sludge flirts, flaunts, and grinds down the spurs and ribs. On this Sunday, the best sludge arrives at the back end of this exhaustingly gorgeous disc. The pairing of hollow, gutteral descent and smoldering campfire embers is simply a bonus.

enskye may cheekily call themselves pretentious, but they're also smart. The calm before the storm can be as frightening as the storm's arrival. And looking back on the devastation can be more gut-wrenching than observing the destruction firsthand. When the sludge isn't knocking you flat, the cool-wind atmospherics are piquing your suspicion. Is it the storm that worries you? Well, it should be. But peer deeper and you may realize the threat of the storm, the threat of the unknown, is far more frightening.

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