I can’t recall the number of times this year that it’s been said to me that 2017 is the year of doom. From Elder to DVNE, Palehorse/Palerider to Spaceslug, time again the genre has brought to the table a palette of sound almost inconceivable to comprehend. And then, almost out of nowhere, Opium Eater‘s Ennui falls into my lap, yet again causing my album of the year list to lurch around spasmodically.
This exciting band from New Zealand plays an insanely exciting blend of doom, post rock, drone, and psych, all wrapped together in a nice progressive blanket. The first time I listened to Ennui my mind was blown; by the third time I was in love. Not only is this album unique, with wonderful moments aplenty, it’s also staggeringly beautiful to behold. At the front end the desperate, haunting vocals paint a picture of where this album is going, yet the first track doesn’t begin to encompass this multitude of sound that befalls the listener through Ennui‘s 55 minute run time.
The aforementioned haunting vocals at the beginning of the alum are accompanied by a droney squeal-like sound, and I really found these sounds combined unlocked a doorway into the dream that is Ennui. “Collapse” switches to a post rock chillscape, which builds into a powerful crescendo as fuzzy guitars take charge and soft ethereal vocals permeate the mix.
The bridge into the second track is seamless, something the band pushed for when creating the album. Each track flows gracefully into the next, and seeing as the band lists Godspeed You! Black Emporer as a key influence, it’s no wonder this detail is looked at so carefully. After a long instrumental introduction to the second track, we’re introduced fully to the excellent clean vocals utilised by the band. With entrancing melodies to begin, the vocals become sludgier and are subsequently accompanied with the heavier lyrics. The band members scream over one another, each part of the vocals mixed in excellently to accompany the trippy vibe to this album. This track really brings the heavy from Opium Eater and it could be compared to some of Mastodon‘s earlier work.
Highlighting the mix is important. Throughout the album the sound is magnificent, the instruments are mixed in to create this overwhelming & dreamy vision. The first single released by the band, “Babelsteps”, is a real example of this, with ups and downs that pull your mind from left to right. It’s hard to explain how many genres Opium Eater transcend in this one song, but it’s weird, heavy, and downright amazing. From sludgy, almost groovy opener to a weird, prog-stoner tone which I really can’t liken to anything I’ve heard before. I can however really feel the fuzzy, bombastic bridges that someone like Elder uses in their music, and when this song hits its final climax you can see how epic both bands would be to witness on a tour together one day.
“Post-Tense” is probably my favourite song off the album. A blend of whining guitars sets you off, with the enveloping drums drawing you close. The melancholic vocals that play off the ricocheting guitars in the following section are one of the highlights of the album for me, but what follows is a true adventure into the trip of Ennui. A bluesy, stoney, doomey ascension follows, before you get dropped into a droney, fuzzy basement of sound. This psychedelic section swallows you up and spits you out as pounding drums, distorted guitars wake you back up. The solo which plays on the left speaker offsets the screeching distortion on the right perfectly in this climax, with the groovy bass punching its way through the mix to lead this song to a headbanging conclusion. I really want to see and feel the ethereal screams which accompany this section live, but they certainly give me the chills on record as it is.
The droney, fuzzy track that bridges the 4th and 6th track is home to one of the best tones I’ve heard all year. The aforementioned fuzz is back in force and both guitars dominate the mix. The track itself is almost an illusion which I think is due to the oppressing sound. It sounds like a 5 minute journey, but instead it sits at just over 2 minutes. Each track on the album bar the 1st and 5th are over 7 minutes each, and rightly so, as it allows the band to showcase how seamlessly they transition genres. Traversing through an almost punk / grunge sound in their sixth track, they also throw in some more drone and more helpings of doom, but no sound seems out of place or as if it wasn’t supposed to follow the last genre.
The title track of the album is simply stunning too. One could be excused for thinking Ennui is a collection of brilliant songs, yet instead it’s a 12 minute prog epic, which takes you back to the ethereal vocals and twangy guitars which have featured before, interjected with brilliant post rock and doom sections before it all collides into a glorious sonic climax. Crashing cymbals from the ever spectacular drums are shattered by the roars of the three vocalists as the song comes to it’s close. Slow doom like riffs (akin to The Ocean’s “Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes”) play out the end to this spectacular chapter of the record, closing the lid on a crazy trip.
The way this band quantum leaps through genres, picking them up and shrugging them off so easily, is one of my favourite parts of this album. As is the myriad of vocal styles used in the album and especially the weird, trippy sections which send you to another planet. The album however might not be very accessible to some, especially if vocals from bands like Vektor put you off. That being said, they will likely grow on you as you delve into the depths they present. Again, bravo to the production, the sound is on point through every song, with the instruments weighted in such a way your mind bends with them. Check out this album, it’s an absolute blast.
Notable Tracks: “Babelsteps”; “Post-Tense”; “Ennui”
FFO: Elder, Mastodon, Godspeed You! Black Emporer
Pick up Opium Eater‘s record on their Bandcamp and keep up to date with the band on their Facebook.