The Russian outfit Ethir Anduin was formed about fifteen years ago (2006) by some Alexey Veselov aka Fenrir. He’s also in Bestial Deform and very recently he joined Atra Haeresis. Throughout the years, Ethir Anduin did release more than a handful of full-lengths, quite some EP’s and some digital singles. I have not always been the biggest ‘fan’ of this act, yet as from a couple of years, the evolution is remarkable; at least, that’s my personal opinion, for what it’s worth.
Ethir Anduin did mainly release instrumental albums in the past. This newest epos, however, is one which includes lyrics / vocals once again. Therefor Fenrir joined forces with (female) screamer Elena ‘Luka’ Vladimirovna, who also guested in the very recently released Atra Haeresis debut-album Pretium (which also includes Fenrir; available via Satanath Records in a partnership with Kryrart Records and Void Wanderer Productions), which might explain this collaboration.
Pathway To Eternity. The Agony is, once more, a very lengthy album, clocking eighty (80!) minutes, divided into eight parts (eight titles), each of them lasting in between eight up to twelve minutes. It got released via Ukrainian label GrimmDistribution in a physical edition of five hundred copies. This jewel-case compact-disc comes with a folded six-page booklet, with a fine lay-out done by Paint-It-Black Design, and including the lyrics. These texts are based on poetic works by some Alexander Ivanovich Vvedensky (there was a contested priest with the very same name, having close contacts with the Bolshevik / Communist party during the first half of last century, but that’s not of importance right here), more specific his posthumously released work Potets. He died in some gulag when he was only 37 years of age, and his works became ‘famous’ long after his death; but that too does not matter within this specific review.
So, this album takes a next step within the history of Ethir Anduin. First of all, the vocals are new, i.e. there were voices in the past, yet it is the first time that Ethir Anduin does include a vocalist in its line-up. Luka is a very skilled singer with a huge timbre: spoken words, whispers, yells, screams, grunts, clean chants, whatever, she does it all. The better part are screamo-like ones, warm melodious chants and icy screams, but as said, deeply-gurgling growls and bestial grunts, narrative parts and gloomy sighs are part of the deal too. Since the lyrics are written and sung / spawned in the band’s mother tongue, the Russian language, I can’t explain what they literally deal with, but it has nothing to do, I guess, with drinking sweet cocktails on some sunny beach or a first tender kiss on the cheek of your beloved. As said, the lyrical content is based on that work by some Vvedensky, and it seems to focus on daily life’s contradictions: night versus day, life versus death, low-profiled versus universal, satisfaction versus unfulfillment, physical versus spiritual; it’s about incomprehension, sadness and affliction, torment and inner struggles. It’s about a person leaving his earthly existence, leaving the harsh tragedy called life…
From instrumental / composition-wise side too, the whole did evolve intensively. The project has always offered an extremely varied and diversified approach, exploring the most extreme antipoles in a cohesive manner. Pathway To Eternity. The Agony however is even more complex and adventurous than ever before. Each single title (not that strange, of course, seen the lengthy duration of each of them) is a labyrinthine interplay of involute structures, avantgarde injections and different related genres and subgenres. The latter includes stuff like Doom and Doom-Death Metal, Atmospheric and Funereal Black Metal, Progressive Rock / Metal, Post-Rock, Funeral Doom, Gothic and Dark Metal, Symphonic Metal and so on. Besides, there are acoustic moments, hints of Ambient and Contemporary Classical, orchestral parts, and so on. It’s tragic and dramatic, then again violent and explicit, or integer, or enthralling. You know, despite it’s stunning length, each five seconds something else seems to happen.
The strength of the whole album, then again, is that the whole does offer a very coherent result. Notwithstanding the initial confusion, each listen reveal the cohesive aspects, step by step. Yet still it remains a harsh experience, this Pathway To Eternity. The Agony. The huge variation in speed, for example, seems so naturally smooth and evident, despite the persistent and variegated shifts.
The string-work and percussions permanently seem to battle, against each-other, and against themselves. Orthodox passages permanently interact with progressive ones, crafted experiments inject excerpts of relative traditional basic structures, and the ingenious constructions remain energetic, atmospheric and somehow personal too (which of course has to do with the poetic source of inspiration).
Cool too is the monumental production, done by Fenrir himself. Since this complex album comes with such an amount of instruments and voices, the mix needs to be well-balanced. And indeed, that surely is the case. Despite the many levels and instruments / vocals used, all of them are equally represented. There is a certain modest roughness too, yet not too raw (nor too clean, luckily). Too much grimness within the production would denigrate certain parts or aspects, too much cleanliness would screw up the message and take away the focus of the total experience.
This project has never been ‘everybody’s cup of tea’. That’s not different right now; on the contrary. I think that, with an even more technically complex performance and the addition of vocals throughout the whole album, the result might be the most difficult Ethir Anduin album to date. But it is worth giving it a try – or several tries, for you might, eventually, adore it…