The blossoming of real musicianship continues in Irish prog metal. It’s in season: we’ve had Tera and Shardborne showing what’s possible with a bit of invention and a high quality control bar. Pleasingly, Espial continue in their confident footsteps.
Released a while back, this long and discursive EP from the band does something different to their forerunners.
Its first half majors mostly on atmosphere, and atmosphere of a kind that’s very, very rare these days – namely the kind of oneiric moods set out by Robert Fripp and David Sylvian in the late 80s, using guitars and synths in a clean, windy, gloomy way. There’s possibly even a little Talk Talk in there, which shows a well considered range of influences.
The tonality is quite striking. ‘Merrow’, as the first track is called runs a gamut of moods. By the time its ultra-downtuned slams come in, it’s clear that the usual crescendo-ad-nauseum trappings of post rock have been all but avoided. Instead, Espial manage to weave in and out of different movements in a detailed and well thought out manner.
‘Key Of Solomon’ is a bit more metallic. The same clear attention to detail is there, and even some intense drumming.
Yet it’s the track where they let their own creativity down just a shade. Having slalomed past traps mentioned above, they fall into the more modern version: Opeth worship.
Why a band so able and conscientious have to lay such a faltulent homage to Mike Akerfelt on tape, I dont know – the wee clean solo in this track sounds almost entirely lifted from ‘Face Of Melinda’ or some similar track of the period, right down to the descending scale and bluesy clean guitar tone. Lads – what on earth is the point?
Luckily it’s brief, and they come back into their own ideas. Which needless to say is where they function best. Like old Stand Up Guy demos, they have a weight and thoughtful intensity at their best, while the detail of the music will please all fans of things progressive.
An excellent start from which to begin what will hopefully be a few more releases at the very least. Great vocals would really make it, but perhaps that’s for another day.
– Earl Grey ::: 26/03/12