Edenic Past - Red Amarcord [Sentient Ruin - 2021]
Edenic Past is an experimental brutal death metal band with disorientingly elaborate structures and thick, tar-black, downtuned tonality, with a dash of dystopic irony and absurdism. I was surprised to find it was a project of Behold... the Arctopus and Krallice guitarist (as well as Gorguts bassist) Colin Marston, whose usual fare has a bit more melodic color and jazz influence. This album/band is a deliberate step into new realms of lower octave sludge, for him. Joining him is fellow Krallice member, bassist Nicholas McMaster, who is actually credited with the songwriting on this album, and vocalist Paulo Paguntalan, whom I have no previous familiarity with.
The density and cleverness of McMaster's songwriting here is the strongest point, of a non-repetitive, through-composed idiom one isn't likely to encounter outside of modernist classical music or the most uncompromisingly strange metal acts. Marston and McMaster, whilst in Krallice and elsewhere, have accomplished Herculean feats of memorization and coordination, committing to mind the most illogical, alien figures, playing with the ultimate extraterrestrial mind of the style, guitarist Mick Barr (bandleader of Krallice and Orthrelm). Barr's sheer alieness has clearly impressed upon them from years of collaboration.
The sound of this recording is like the hungry mumblings of a massive monstrous beast lurching through the forgotten sewer it calls home. There is a whimsicality to its constant sidesteps and abandoned turnarounds. Paulo's oily sub-octave vocal is so low it sounds almost hollow, or like vibrating rubber. McMaster's always active bass has a satisfyingly bright metallic 'twang', suitable for someone such as himself who likes to play a lead or melodic role. Tonally, the blend between voice, guitar and bass is perfect. It oozes out of the speakers, creating instant atmosphere.
A world of dissonant, dark jazz melody not unlike Fredrik Thordendal's work is indeed present on this album as well, but partially obfuscated by the deliberate muddiness of the guitar tone. It is like a faint glint of gemstones visible within the dark rock of a cave wall. One may strain their ears to catch a faint ghost of a melodic fragment, an afterimage of vibrant dream-like color.
All of the drumming is programmed, which is at times distracting, with obvious rigid repetition of samples too close to another, causing ringy resonances where the samples overlap, which distract from the guitar sounds playing in front. It feels indecisive to leave the drums in this state, sounding thin and underpresent compared to the guitars, where their artificiality is all too obvious. It is not clear what aesthetic they could be shooting for, as these are not the stylized, futuristic artificial drums of dark electronic genres, but something that sounds like a sloppy imitation of a live drummer. At the end of the day, it's like they wanted a real drummer but failed to find one, and given the pool of amazing talent Marston is associated with, this simply doesn't make any sense.
There are thirteen short songs on the album, ranging one-three minutes on average. The style doesn't exactly change from song to song, and there are a lot of abrupt stops even within the tracks, and thus it feels a bit like a grindcore album, where the pieces blur together into one. The non-repetitive style makes remembering any song basically impossible. That said, it also makes the replay value near-infinite, as it is with many of Marston and McMasters' dense creations. A recording like this won't appeal to everyone, but those who like it will play it often.Josh Landry