Review: Eidola – Degeneraterra

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Before I sat down to pour my thoughts into the new Eidola album, Degeneraterra, I took a look at what I had written about their freshman release The Great Glass Elephant.  It is a fantastic album and is still one of my favorites of 2013, but the following phrase stuck out to me: “Did they give it all with their first attempt or do they have something to build upon?”  Having the power of hindsight, I have to just laugh at that statement.  There is no risk of a sophomore slump here: Degeneraterra is light-years ahead of The Great Glass Elephant.  The lion’s share of the effort goes to the band in their unending drive and ambition, but a piece goes to their aligning with Blue Swan Records which considerably upped the production value.

For a perspective on the scope of ambition of this record, I started trying to find a comparison to a modern touchstone.  As I put it on for another spin in a barrage of countless listening sessions, I was tempted to draw similarities to the Game of Thrones series.  On the surface, it is simple: fantasy and prog-metal/post-hardcore draw similar fans, both tell sprawling and expansive stories, both pull the rug out from under you at times (Eidola with crunching progressions, George RR Martin with randomly killing off important characters), both had optimistic release schedules for their passionate fan bases, and that speaks to their commitment to putting out the very best product that they are capable of.  And Eidola seems primed for the kind of breakout year that Martin had in 2011 when HBO picked up the rights to his epic.

The correlation seemed like a perfect fit until I thought about another HBO vehicle: True Detective.  I won’t get into the details of the series since this space is for Eidola, but the following statement can be used for both:

The whole project was carefully and lovingly put together to completely turn the genre on its head.  If you don’t pay attention to the whole thing, you lose out on all the subtleties that the artist put into the work.  Even if you do notice everything, there are times that your attention is captured so aggressively that you cannot help but sit there, slack jawed in what you are experiencing.

While Degeneraterra is an hour in length – the same as one of the ten episodes of an HBO drama – it traverses the same path of discovery through the psyche of both its central characters and those who are along for the ride.  It defies genres as it comes out of the gate swinging with an aluminum bat before moving into a progressive rock/metal mashup on “Omni: The First Temple” with Andrew Wells belting out crisp philosophy, James Johnson throwing out a filthy bass line, Brandon Bascom and Matthew Dommer switching up crunching riffs and bluesy guitar solos, and Matthew Hansen throwing in just enough double-bass pedal to keep your heart rate up (and that’s just the first five minutes).

Each of the thirteen tracks takes the listener on a unique ride and ebbs and flows with pacing, emotion, philosophical musings that rival any of Rust Cohle’s soliloquies, and then just drop a bombshell on you: True Detective has that single-shot drug heist scene, Degeneraterra has that section in “Omega: The Third Temple” at the 4:40 minute mark where they make the guitars sound like horns.  Like. A. Horn. Section.  And then they build on that.  The song just packs so much into itself that I have only listened to the final track, “De Coelesti Hierarchia” a few times.  Not because I don’t enjoy the tribal feel of it, but because after “The Third Temple,” I simply have nothing left to give.

There is so much in this album that I could write a graduate level thesis on it.  Just know that if you have any, any, interest in metal/prog rock/post-core/music in general, check these guys out.  If they are not huge in the next couple years, then I will finally concede that I know nothing about music.  Degerneraterra comes out May 5th, go get it, and keep your tail feathers touching the wind.

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