Label: Self-released / Independent
It’s fair to say that I don’t care for experimentation for its own sake. It’s all well and good being creative and trying to push boundaries, but ultimately, the quality of the music is what counts; anything else is a bonus. It’s with this mindset that I approached Deep In The Ground, the latest album by the very active American duo Écorché (four releases thus far in 2015, including two albums). They’re not exactly black metal, nor are they really industrial metal, but they fit in reasonably well with both scenes, as well as having darkly gothic touches and a strong experimental vibe. And yet, for all the different influences at work on Deep In The Ground, it’s a very grounded listen, with well-crafted songs; and it’s that fact which makes it such a success, albeit an imperfect one, which is only enhanced by how creative a record it is.
It’s not the kind of album that really has a single genre remaining dominant throughout – to describe it as, say, black metal with industrial influences would feel wrong. Whilst it’s possible to clearly pick out, for example, the black metal guitars, or the industrial rhythms, to do so is to miss the forest for the trees. Instead, the diverse influences all come together to create something fairly unique; even if the building blocks aren’t exactly strangers to one another, the way they are put together is quite special. And whilst it may feel slightly pretentious at points – as with the background poetry of “My Dead Lover” – it’s the kind of arrogance and sense of grandeur that only enhances the record, giving it a feeling of confidence that is needed to make an album like Deep In The Ground work.
Such confidence also compliments the devilishly ominous feel that runs throughout the entirety of the album, right from the martial beginnings of opener “The Grotesque II: In The Cold Ground”, that doesn’t let up until the end. There’s a sense of drama and story-telling that keeps things moving forward too, even if each song deals with a different subject to the others (for example, “LV-426” gleefully references the Alien franchise; “Field Of The Impaled” is more a traditional, Vlad Tepes affair; and the aforementioned “The Grotesque II: In The Cold Ground” is the tale of a gravedigger who takes pride in his work).
The production is absolutely raw as fuck, to the point where things are almost unlistenable at times, especially when the bass is more prominent. But it works perfectly, enhancing the atmosphere of the record immensely, and whilst it will inevitably put some off, I’m a big fan of how crude and rough it sounds. When the band throw everything at the listener, as during sections of “I Am In Hell Help Me”, it is a remarkably intense assault. That said, there is still room for small details to come through, such as subtle bass turns during “My Dead Lover”, or what sounds like sitar in the background of parts of “I Am In Hell Help Me”, so it’s not all brute force and volume. Closer “The Grotesque III: A Pulseless Mould” also has to be given special praise for bringing to mind the more daring instrumental tracks on Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, combined with the self-destructive nature of The Downward Spiral.
If there is a complaint to be made, it’s that Écorché perhaps try to pack too many ideas and diverse styles in to the Deep In The Ground, meaning it ends up feeling more like a collection of songs than an album. The shift from the more quiet-drone ending of “LV-426” in to the straight-forward riff and keyboard melody that opens “Godcrow” is slightly jarring (though it must be said that the melody in question is quite a delight). Likewise, the (relatively) spacious first half of “Field Of The Impaled”, which places the percussion right at the front and uses guitars relatively sparingly, saps some of the momentum the preceding tracks created so well – though the later half of the song, following the Dani Filth-esque narrated mid-section, is wonderfully dark and morbid. A touch more editing in terms of song length may have helped, too; “I Am In Hell Help Me” is several minutes too long, its extensive repetitions going from captivating to exhausting around the six minute mark.
This criticism must be taken in context, though. Écorché have attempted to make something very daring and creative, with no real regard for genre rules or conventions, and on the whole Deep In The Ground is a success. Yet it feels more like part of a learning process rather than the finished article, which is both criticism and praise, because if they can refine and improve upon what is presented on Deep In The Ground, then Écorché will end up producing something very, very special indeed.
Deep In The Ground is available for streaming and download via Bandcamp.