It says a lot that there are two rhythm guitarists in this band from Somerset. “Embers of Existence” features such strong and melodic riffs that it reminds me to some extent of an album by one of those guitar virtuosos. The tricky little drum twirls seem to be going off at their own pace. Closer to this exercise in good guitar playing is the vocalist whose growls reflect a darker force and energy.
The album gets off to a good start with “As Life Fades”. It’s not just about the riff and the solos as the vocalist captures a mood of fire and passion to go with those juicy riffs. It’s a good track but as the album goes on, I just sensed that the main event is the guitar playing and the rest is incidental. Where “As Life Fades” made me think of a melodic Death Metal version of Septic Flesh, I was increasingly drawn to thoughts of Insomnium. Spectacular waves of guitar take over the rapid and clinically controlled “The Forgotten”. It’s nice that one rapid-fire track leads into the next with minimal break. Breathlessness suits this style. “Fragments of a Memory” plays around with us a bit, with its breaks and slowing down a little here and there. The drummer taps away merrily but it’s as if this track has been put together at any different times, as is normal, without any subsequent thought as to how it is held together. Almost total reliance is placed on the colour of the guitar work. It’s good but there’s something missing here as the parts don’t seem to make a whole. Either that or it’s just intended to be a lesson in guitar playing.
“Disengage” ends with an excellently evocative slowed down epic section but instead of reaching to our hearts and minds, it stops and acts as a separate cue for a moody but contextless instrumental “Epitaph”. More of that evocative epic section was what we needed to divert our minds from the breezy widdlery. Still, the mould is broken, but only fleetingly as we’re soon back to the melodic metal guitar riff of the title track. The growler growls but I wondered if I hadn’t heard this already on this album. The guitars take us into other directions and yes, there’s a decent solo, before it slows down. It’s a bit “metal by numbers”. But to destroy that theory “Embers of Existence” then has a false ending, before growling to a close. I didn’t get the point of that. If the track “Embers of Existence” mystified me, I did like “Under Blood Red Skies”, which although no more or less original than any other, does have excitement and energy, qualities which Engraved Disillusion know how to exploit. The track takes another turn into more technical territory. I liked what I heard to start with but it seems the band feels obliged to pack in all those ideas as if they consider we’re missing out on something. Well, less can be more and we’re not exactly short of guitar moments on this album. As I listened to “Unhallowed Eyes” and appreciated the punchy groove, I braced myself for it to change into the customary guitar finery, which it does. Lingering is not evidently something that Engraved Disillusion do, at least until the last track “Solitude” when time is finally devoted to capturing and milking a defined sound and mood, something they seem to have been too much in a hurry to do to this point.
What I saw and heard in this album was a display of technical skill at the expense of raw enjoyment and co-ordinated musical pleasure. The sound is distinct, the guitar work in particular is good and there are fresh metal melodies here. On the negative side Engraved Disillusion don’t seem to have embraced the concept of time or co-ordination of instruments and ideas, and accordingly I found frustration in “Embers of Existence” when it could have been stingingly good and exciting.
(5.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty)