Friday, 31 May 2013

Sardonis / Eternal Elysium - Ascending Circulation split (album review)

Cover artwork by Nat Damm
SardoniS really only came onto my radar when I was sent a copy of 'SardoniS II' in the mail.  I'd known about them for a while by that point and it was on my list of things to "eventually" pick up, but there was no more time wasted once it arrived.  I carefully extracted the disc and threw aside the slipcase in a devil-may-care fashion, throwing myself wholeheartedly into the album.  I liked it.  Great instrumental bands are something peculiar to doom in that they hold the listener's attention without the obvious and immediate hook of the vocal melody.  Think of bands like Bongripper, Giza, Iron Mtn, Jackal-Headed Guard of the Dead, It's Not Night: It's Space ... well, there are just so many.  It's only surprising because I don't typically like instrumentals.  Sure I like Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" and "Orion" just like everyone else but what I'm saying is, I don't normally go for non-vocal music.  But I go for SardoniS in a big way and after recently discovering Eternal Elysium (a band that's been around for over 20 years!) due to my recent review of their 'Highflyer' EP for The Sludgelord blog, I found this album and it was some sort of Lovecraftian dream come true.  Rarely do I find splits that not only do I know both bands, but both are trusted.  Wheelfall / A Very Old Ghost Behind the Farm comes to mind, as does the upcoming Wo Fat / Egypt split but it's a rare treat indeed.

'Ascending Circulation', was put together for the tour of Japan SardoniS did with Eternal Elysium and just as they did for the October shows, SardoniS takes the stage first with their first offering "The Ascending".

I know people who can't listen to music with lyrics in any other language than English.  They are lyrically fixated to a fault.  It means there's a whole world of music that they don't get to enjoy.  Oh well.  I'm not that way, I listen to the vocal melody rather than the lyrics, allowing certain lines and passages to get caught in the meat grinder that is my head naturally and organically.  One of the most interesting aspects of music is the way it is connected to language in the brain, the rhythms of the music mirroring the rhythms of the composer's mother tongue.  It's for this reason that Eternal Elysium offer some of the most unique and funky rhythms within the broad field of psychedelic stoner doom music.  The Japanese language is rhythmically interesting in that it is full of abrupt stops and starts, punctuated by melodic flourishes and rapid fire monotone, followed by sudden stops and starts, etc.  All composers have this same tendency to mirror linguistic rhythms, tones, etc. and SardoniS is no exception.  The native Belgians don't need a vocalist to speak in a language distinct from that of their tour and split companions from the far east.  For nine and a half minutes the duo that is SardoniS belches out swelling rhythms in a song that isn't all that interesting structurally, but never drags or loses the listener.

Eternal Elysium unleashes their raggedy funk on the Japanese / English "Unbound (Kai Hoh)".  The song has the same swaggering, shambling appeal as a homeless drunk has to an insatiable murderer, the temptation to give in to impulses cannot be ignored.  Thankfully, we aren't murderers, we're headbangers, and our naturally rambunctious compulsions are indeed set free on this one.  The next track, "Circulation (Jun Kan)" ended up on the aforementioned Highflyer EP which was released just three weeks after this split.  It's got a great riff and the memorable line, "the future is completely blank".  Apart from the atomic blast that is SardoniS' "To The Barn!", it's probably the most uptempo and immediately hooky song on this split.

Because of the audible background buzz, "The Spiral Conclusion" sounds like a home recording that was never intended to see release.  Indeed, it was recorded roughly a year before the other two songs on this disc and it, along with "To The Barn!", are CD only bonus tracks that weren't on the original 10" record or bandcamp download.  This nearly eight minute instrumental is the perfect illustration of what I mentioned earlier about the linguistic origins of music.  The song starts out almost as a traditional Japanese folk song with plucked strings in the classical style and builds slowly into something recognizably stoner rock.

To take nothing away from SardoniS, Eternal Elysium steal the show here with their infectious rhythms.

Highlights include: "Circulation" and "The Ascending"

Rating: 4/5

1). SardoniS - The Ascending (9:28)
2). SardoniS - To The Barn (4:21)
3). Eternal Elysium [Kai Hoi] (8:04)
4). Eternal Elysium [Jun Kan] (6:25)
5). Eternal Elysium [The Spiral Conclusion] (7:40)
Total Run Time: 35:56

From: Belgium (SardoniS), Japan (Eternal Elysium)

Genre: Doom, Instrumental, Psychedelic, Stoner

Reminds me of: Monster Magnet

Release Date: October 4, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: The journey of the warrior's spirit begins in the body (SardoniS) and ends in the mind (Eternal Elysium) ...

Better Review:
The Sludgelord
The Sleeping Shaman
Robust Fellow

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Eternal Elysium facebook


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