How do you build a world? Novelists attempt it, and so too do filmmakers. Weaving from imagination concepts that we take for granted, from landscapes to cultures and customs, artists seek to create a fantasy with enough substance for an audience to explore. Quebec solo artist Jeremy Vocino-Montpetit, also known as Ezerath, attempts to create such a world through the medium of progressive death metal. His upcoming debut release, Overture: The Heir Apparent, is the first installment of a conceptual saga set in the land of Ezerath. This ambitious full-length record will be independently released on June 23.
The first exposure we have to the world created here is the album’s cover: a grand fortress overlooks a wondrous waterfall, set against an ominous sky. “Temple of the Forsaken” opens the aural exploration of this land with haunting piano chords and pounding drums before a mammoth riff takes over. The tech-death influence of Vocino-Montpetit’s Quebec surroundings are certainly obvious here, but are juxtaposed by tasteful keys and tempo/tone-shifts that flit from fantastical to furious. Almost immediately evident is one of the strongest components of the record: Vocino-Montpetit’s lead playing. It is rare to hear a style so immediately distinct on a player’s first release, and his technical, lyrical approach manages to take common tech-death tropes and make them interestingly unique.
Amidst The Ruins
Ezerath’s songs are journeys, and do not reveal all parts of the route immediately. The menacing organs and strings that open “Whispers of Ruin” are matched by echoing, distorted voices before brief, brutal blasts heighten the intensity of the sonic landscape. A technical, fast-paced verse emerges from the auditory avalanche. I was excited and surprised by the epic orchestral section that briefly appeared at the two minute mark in the track before again dissipating into a brutal barrage. The section is reprised later on in the song, making for one of my favorite moments on the album, as well as a melodic motif that is revisited throughout the record. The colossal riffage of such parts, alongside the grandiose lyrical concept, make for a welcome comparison to Slice The Cake.
“In A Gale of Inferno” opens with dulcet acoustic picking and choral strains alongside a guest vocal appearance from Felicia Weinmann: the welcome melodic vocals are well-placed amidst the various growled and spoken word sections on the record. The track builds into pounding Black Crown Initiate-esque atmospheric riffage, later matched by what might be Vocino-Montpetit’s best solo on the record.
An End & A Beginning
The album shifts from strength to strength along a continuum of orchestral interludes, spoken word sections, and powerful progressive death metal before closing with “Eternally Mine”. Including all of these ideas, the nearly seven minute song is an epic closer. Though the spoken word sections appear a little needless and cheesy, I’m certain they add to the album’s concept, which Vocino-Montpetit describes as, “a first person narrative, depicting the thoughts of several main characters immediately before the death of Alton Nayan. Alton Nayan is the King of Gnara, residing in Stonegate Castle, located in the vast land known as Ezerath.”
Overture: A Heir Apparent starts a journey into Vocino-Montpetit’s fantastical Ezerath. Considering the breadth of instrumental diversity and impressive guitar playing present here, the young musician should be commended for handling all components of the album’s performance and production of his debut record himself. Though the artist can clearly handle creative control, I wonder if Ezerath might benefit from a wider array of support, specifically in the form of a more fearsome and versatile vocalist. Though Vonico-Montpetit’s growls are perfectly acceptable for the genre, a more nuanced and diverse vocal performance would better complement the impressive and varied soundscapes created here. I look forward to hearing more from the budding solo artist, especially considering the excellent pacing, epic instrumentation and ambition demonstrated on Ezerath’s debut.
Notable Tracks: “Temple of the Forsaken”; “Whispers of Ruin”
FFO: Slice The Cake, Black Crown Initiate, Fleshgod Apocalypse