Ecnephias - Dominium Noctis
Gothic/Blackened Doom-Death
11 songs (40:29)
Release year: 2006
Ecnephias, Nekromantik
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
Welcome, reader, to Ecnephias week!

For those of you unaware of the back story, here is where things stand. In April of this year I reviewed Ways of Descention, the band’s second album. I wasn’t entirely complementary, though I was at pains to point out that it isn’t wholly devoid of charm. So far, so unremarkable, a middling album lost to history. But then we received a remarkable forum visitor in the shape of bandleader Mancan, who, let’s say, had some issues with the review. From there, things descended (or depending on perspective, ascended) into high farce, a war of words surrounding English vocabulary, the Mediterranean temperament, and whether or not all Swiss are Nazis. The twist here is that Mancan and I are now internet buddies (right, Mancan??). To the extent that he has sent me free copies of two of his band's older records for review, which is cool of him considering I was rude about the most recent one. And this is where you join us, for the review of Dominium Noctis, the band’s full-length debut from 2006.

In fact, this treads a largely similar path to Ways of Descention. For those that missed the first review, Ecnephias play a sinister blend of black and death metal riffing soaked (really, soaked) in gothic-horror synths and eerie perverted-monk ambient samples. Dominium Noctis, perhaps unsurprisingly given that it’s the debut, feels rawer and a little heavier, with gnarly, crunching riffs giving tunes like Burn Witch Burn and Under the Sign of the Archangel a more orthodox doom-death feel akin to early My Dying Bride. But let’s get to the point: on which of my criticisms am I now to make a stand, and on which do I cede ground?

Well, the biggest problem I always had was with the synths. On Ways of Descention I felt they sounded hammy and inauthentic, suggesting an effective sense of gothic colour but in practice giving the thing the feel of a mid-90s fantasy computer game. I have to say, that also applies to this debut. Parping synth-orchestral interludes such as Ragnatele Su Velluto Scarlatto simply don’t do it for me. Weak interludes wouldn’t normally be such a problem but the synths are actually an integral part of the whole experience, with doomy growlers such as Between Shadows relying on the keys to give it a really imperious or sinister feel that isn’t quite delivered. Still, the clean plansong-aping (though not a capella) vocals and ominous acoustic folk of the title track is effective.

Where perhaps I can retreat a little is in questioning the band’s credentials as an extreme metal proposition. The heaviest moments here are by far the strongest in my view, with the ramshackle nature of the sound becoming part of the appeal, like a musical equivalent to a Lucio Fulci film. Take Pleasure and Pain, which shuffles torturously slowly, like a death metal band grinding agonisingly to a near-halt. Hissed and belched vocals could sound terribly cheesy but they really do contribute to the Hammer Horror atmosphere. Burn Witch Burn is a pounding death rattle in which the synths work surprisingly well, ‘woohing’ away effectively like a ghost train ghoul, and Veneficia has a nice, almost folkish melodicism.

I ended the last review by saying I wouldn’t recommend Ways of Descention to anyone, which now seems a bit mean. So let me say this: Dominium Noctis is quite a campy album, which sometimes sounds a little sloppy or underdeveloped. However it is also characterful and varied (as my clumsy attempt to give it a genre descriptor above indicates), and deserves a chance from those with a penchant for synth-heavy doom-death. As with the last album, the more I listen, the more things I find to like. Now, go read about Haereticus

Killing Songs :
Pleasure and Pain, Under the Sign of the Archangel
Charles quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Ecnephias that we have reviewed:
Ecnephias - Necrogod reviewed by Charles and quoted 78 / 100
Ecnephias - Inferno reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
Ecnephias - Haereticus reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Ecnephias - Ways of Descention reviewed by Charles and quoted 65 / 100
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