Review Summary: As the cat decomposes...
The history of the Italian metal band Ephel Duath is marked by constant change of both their sound and their line-up and the refusal to stay within the same style for two albums in a row. After the black metal debut “Phormula” came the jazz metal masterpiece “A Painter’s Palette” which was followed by the much rougher and heavier - and quite disappointing - album “Pain Necessary to Know”. Further there have been two remix albums released: “RePhormula” and “Pain Remixes the Known”. You see, it’s impossible to make any prognoses about what Ephel Duath are going to do next. Still, once it became clear that the announcement to record an album about the daily life of a dog was not a ridiculous gag, a puzzled sigh escaped many of the fans including myself.
Yet after listening to the album it became clear that the concept was the least thing to worry about. Actually it was refreshingly funny to hear someone growling and shouting about chasing cats and burying bones and even the more philosophical moments that most often occur out of the comparisons and parallels between the narrating dog and his human “master” have a more entertaining and interesting value to it than it seems at first. Or to say it with guitarist and founding member Davide Tiso’s words: “The album touches on a lot of things, both deep and sometimes silly”
. To be honest, the emphasis lies definitely on silly, but not in a “Oh my god is this dumb” kind of silly, but more in the way of a quiet chuckle. And actually when you come to think about it, Ephel Duath’s approach has always been to take extreme forms of music and push them into unusual and strange territories and as awkward as that sounds, what could be more unusual and strange than telling the story of a dog in form of a conceptual metal album? Actually the album is so bizarre that it almost becomes interesting for its obscurity alone.
So if lyrics and concept are not the problem, what’s wrong with the album? It’s the fact that Ephel Duath seem to run out of breath and ideas. Of course a simple change of sound cannot be taunted, and neither the absence of jazz elements nor the loss of their aggressiveness should hurt me if it was replaced with something else. However with “Through My Dog’s Eyes” they have not only lost any legitimation to call themselves avant-garde, or even experimental, but also given up their liveliness and variety. One of the biggest achievements of “The Painter’s Palette” and to a lesser extent of “Pain Necessary to Know” was the huge array of styles in their sound, the amount of influences that shaped the albums. This time you do get a mix of hard rock and metalcore with some brief excursions into southern rock and blues, but that’s about it. The mostly uniform songs are still more complex than your average metal album, but that doesn’t make them more interesting. Instead they let one wonder whether the boredom was deliberate to more accurately sketch out the lame life of a dog with music - and indeed, according to Blabbermouth.com Davide Tiso claims: “The music in this case is the soundtrack of the thoughts of the dog”
. Of course this leaves open the question how good an idea that was in the first place.
At the point of recording the album, Ephel Duath were reduced to a trio: drummer Marco Minnemann who has previously worked with countless bands including Paul Gilbert and Necrophagist does quite an impressive performance. Though Davide Tiso often threatens to fade away into uninspired riffing, he is able to pull of a number of more interesting guitar figures as well and the subtle electronic effects he uses on some of the songs do really work in favor of them. But it all falls with vocalist Luciano George Lorusso’s performance, which seems to be stuck in metalcore vocalist clichés and so gives an obscure contrast to the album’s lyrics. And as we’re speaking of obscurity once again: he has recently been replaced by a professional poker player called Guillermo Gonzales. However the band is still able to create a number of very enjoyable songs, first of all the opener which has a certain southern rock feeling to it, but also Silent Door
as well as the more melodic track Guardian
and most of all the closer Bark Loud
, which features Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman.
Though it cannot be completely dismissed, “Through My Dog’s Eyes” is not a very good album, especially when considering the greatness of some of the band’s previous material. Actually it is left to hope that this is about the lowest the band can get. So anyone who is already into Ephel Duath, shouldn’t get this with any expectations on his mind, as it is a completely different kind of music played by a completely different band. And for anyone who hasn’t heard anything by the band yet, I’d strongly recommend to first get “The Painter’s Palette”. “Through My Dog’s Eyes” is good for half an hour of half-decent fun, but you shouldn’t look for more in it.