Enceladus - Elden daemon 2.5/5

Reviewed: 5-1-11





Tracklist:

1. Aechos
2. Chapter XIII
3. Strike of Enceladus
4. Mask of sanity
5. Seek the end of suffering
6. Destroying your angels
7. Deconstituted Christ
8. Odin’s vigil
9. Ich schiessen das bett
10. Dragon chorus
11. Rock out with your Bach out
12. Dark crusade
13. Elden daemon


It’s awfully difficult to break in as a new heavy metal band these days. The music industry is in disarray, with record labels still scrambling to figure out how/if it is possible to make money in a digital age. And metal subgenres are so entrenched, stratified and compartmentalized that a large segment of the potential audience wants any new bands to fit neatly within those pre-arranged categories. To make matters worse, websites that are supposed to help new bands with promotion may exclude your act from consideration based on inscrutable, arbitrary criteria. All of these challenges face Canada’s Enceladus. They’re unsigned, and navigating the DIY waters as best they can. Their sound crosses over several different subgenre lines in a manner that may prove original, but potentially unpalatable to narrow-minded constituents of each. All that, and encyclopedic metal reference site Metal-Archives has steadfastly refused to allow a listing for Enceladus, for reasons that are unfathomable.

When Enceladus initially contacted Metal CD Ratings staff to request review consideration, they described their sound as “power metal with balls.” There’s certainly an element of that to their music. Indeed, there are passages (especially on songs like “Odin’s vigil” or “Dragon chorus”) where speedy melodic guitar licks and leads are executed nicely over a pummeling rhythm section that recalls Symphony X, Dragonforce, or especially Indiana’s Zephaniah. But Enceladus also lean quite heavily on a black metal foundation at times, with trollish harsh vocals, atmospheric black metal keyboards, blast beats and so on. Songs like “Mask of sanity”, “Ich schiessen das bett”, and “Deconstituted Christ” are primarily black metal tunes that may appeal to the Ancient/Behemoth crowd. That’s not all. Enceladus also delve into progressive textures, with occasional dissonant riffs and a twisted, sprawling 15-minute epic called “Elden daemon” that is both experimental and progressive in places. The icing on the somewhat confusing cake is the “Rock out with your Bach out” instrumental track that fuses together parts of various classical pieces. It bears noting, too, that the stylistic variation is not only from one song to the next, but also within the same track as, for example, “Destroying your angels” shifts back and forth between black metal fury and power metal glory over its 8-minute duration. Overall, the best description for Enceladus I can muster is to imagine a black metal Into Eternity that hadn’t quite gelled stylistically.

To be clear, I absolutely applaud Enceladus for wanting to do something different than the cookie-cutter black metal or power metal sound. Those paths have been beaten into the ground over the years, and it’s tough to stand out in those fields as a new band. Unfortunately, trying to merge these styles together is an inordinately perilous endeavor. Many readers of this site may struggle (as I did) to get through the harsh black metal parts. I’ve never been enthused with that style, and Enceladus’s take on it does nothing to pique my interest. And I fear black metal aficionados may be unimpressed with the forays into power metal melody and clear vocals like the catchy chorus of “Odin’s vigil”. Setting aside this conceptual problem, Enceladus definitely need to work on their execution and hone their presentation. The transitions from one style to the other are not seamless, but often feel forced and contrived. It’s as if Enceladus couldn’t decide whether to be a power metal band or a black metal band, so they wrote a power metal part and a black metal part, then stitched them together and called it a song. So it makes for a frustrating listen at times. The other major problem is that singer Jonathan Hanson has a convincingly menacing extreme metal snarl, but seems overmatched by the melody lines in the power metal parts, as he struggles mightily to hit the notes.

At the end of the day, the inescapable fact remains that ‘Elden daemon’ is a tough listen, thanks to the schizophrenic style, demo-level production job, and 72-minute running time. Although Enceladus plainly do have power metal elements to their music, I suspect their core audience will consist not of loyal readers of this site, but of open-minded black metal fans who don’t mind a dollop of melody, a few galloping-warrior parts, some searing guitar-hero bits, and odd detours into experimentation from time to time. Nonetheless, it is an intriguing mix, and it is with all sincerity that I tip my cap to Enceladus for not choosing the easy path for their sound. Given more time, musical development, and gelling of their style, it is not at all far-fetched to think that these guys just may find a way to pull off this hybrid in a convincing manner. So I don’t count them out. But ‘Elden daemon’ may be too raw and ultimately too embryonic with its clashing styles to appeal to most power metalheads.



KIT




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