Prog funeral doom? I guess it had to happen even in this most conservative and tectonic of genres – here with elements of keyboard abuser Jean Michel Jarre, those other serial French synth talents Air and black metal hook machine Summoning and we are truly in the foothills of a progressive funeral doom concoction. The combination of marmite, cheese and caviar might not sound too great at first. But the basic combination of keyboards and trudging doom will be a familiar one and Brittany, France-based Ixion pull the other elements together seamlessly and impressively well always staying on the right side of La Fromagerie.
In fact, Enfant de la Nuit is one of those albums that may just get under your skin despite all your better judgements. The band’s first release To The Void was more of an ambient funeral doom outing. Enfant de la Nuit exudes considerably more personality even though some of that personality coming through is a little more esoteric – even downright quirky. You might have guessed that by the cover – which reminds me a little of the early Nightwish covers – when the band still sounded really interesting and oddball amidst the symphonic bombast.
Ixion has a similar mix of the sweet candy sounds and the slightly odd all rolled up into an eventful cosmic journey. At other times it’s just thoroughly enchanting. Take the track Allegiance, for example, a Summoning-style, building, genius of a track with such an infectious melody that nestles itself within your brain for days after and refuses to budge. At times the music is of such an ambient and synthesised nature that you sometimes need to remind yourself that it’s metal at all.
But the deeply embedded guitars kick in nicely as the track begins to build amid various vocal treatments from growled to clean to stretched and synthesised. Well textured and perhaps difficult to find direct comparisons within actual funeral doom – although Shape of Despair is a very obvious one, even if Ixion are more open to the idea of going off the metal musical piste.
The track Doom shows the band revelling in their more metal credentials and descending into a darker more distorted tone. But even the harder more guitar heavy tracks have an ambient feel. The following track reintroduces the piano melodies and soaring synths with the guitar providing rhythm and pace. The final few tracks drive home Ixion’s skill for infectious melodies combined with off-beat arrangements that provides a strange contrast between obvious hooks and drifting ambience.
In short, Ixon have produced something which walks cautiously through some well-trodden pastures – synth-heavy funeral doom – without falling into the same cliches. By focusing more on the inventive synth pop aspect of the sound they’ve managed to produce something both tantalisingly gloomy and thoroughly entertaining at the same time.
Ixion definitely has a wider appeal than a classic funeral doom album and in fact the heavily reliance on synthesisers may even put some hardened doomsters off. This is a little less subtle but at the same time uses crafty melodies but in ways that avoid cynical repetition or cliché. Enfant de la Nuit is an interesting album that appeals on various levels and a release that has more to offer than first appearances might promise.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)