EDEN – The First Circle
Release Date: 30/07/2021
Running Time: 29:37
Review by Steven Hooke
It’s hard to define EDEN as a ‘band’ in the traditional sense as what limited information there is available regarding the group, suggest that it is an ever-changing revolving door of artists coming in, trashing up a kitchen (no, really, have a look at the line-up and the “instruments” they use), and calling it a day. The end result is “The First Circle”, debut album from the noise peddlers, that boasts a more ethereal hue at its core.
The first half of the album is relatively subdued in the grand scheme of things, starting with ‘Gehenna’ and its three-way dance between a cleaner, almost shoegaze-y riff, its dark, black metal cousin, and the near white noise generated by the drum crashes. The true discomforting noise from this song, as well as the rest of the songs on the album ends up coming from the vocals, but more on them in a bit. ‘Gehenna’ feels more like a melodic black metal song to properly open the album, the brighter guitar riff hanging over the ensemble is in a style that seems inspired by Oranssi Pazuzu’s less-frantically, maddening moments.
As “The First Circle” continues, the scale of noise and resistance to the listener increases. The title track starts chiming in extra noises and layering in the background in an attempt to disjoint the sound established so far, before ‘Your Void Is Mine’ really pushes that ethos to arguably its fullest potential in the main body of the album, at times drawing comparisons to “Irony Is A Dead Scene” era The Dillinger Escape Plan, Type O Negative, and “Blackjazz” era Shining, all played whilst someone is blending up a slushie of ice and iron ingots right next to you.
Surprisingly, in an album striving to achieve “noise” music status, one of the most structured and thought-out parts of the album’s sound are those vocals. Whilst the mystery vocalist will gurgle and shriek with apparent wild abandon of musical structural norms, the timings of the vocals coming and particularly how they’re used at any given moment often feels like they add more noise aspects throughout the album (particularly the first half) in a conscious way, something that you don’t necessarily want to feel on an album that prides itself on being made from free improvisation and experimentation, bragging, “all songs are completely improvised and recorded in one take”. The snarl of the vocals does provoke a sinister feeling akin to that of the 90’s black metal scene, but their timing is just a little bit too precise for how EDEN are trying to sell the album.
But then there are the brief moments, the short passages in ‘Your Void Is Mine’ and the album bookends ‘The End Of The Beginning’ and ‘The Beginning Of The End’, where the majority of the music dies down and it sounds like we’re getting true, off-the-cuff free improvisational music of someone discovering a piano for the first time, someone else fiddling with snare wires, another trying to learn the riff of ‘Nasty’ by The Prodigy and their guitar isn’t plugged in properly, all serving as the backdrop for the vocalist’s audition for ASMR content creation. Mouth ticks, deep breathing, gurgling, what sounds like someone chewing a toffee penny with their mouth open, the last few years of Tik Tok, Twitch and YouTube have shown that there is a huge market for this kind of stuff, but if you’re like me (and God help you if you are) and you reside on the more misophonia end of the spectrum, this will grate on you tremendously. And I’ll concede, there’s an argument that noise music is explicitly meant to be challenging and connoisseurs of the style may gravitate towards that, but personally, it wasn’t an “unpleasant but in a good way experience” at all, just profoundly unpleasant.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to really put a true marker on a record like “The First Circle”. It’s apparently designed from the ground up to be confrontational, yet still possesses moments of melody and conscious songwriting to appeal to casuals – ‘Gehenna’ is genuinely a good song and a great way to ease yourself into the album if you are less-versed in the style, and ‘Your Void Is Mine’ would be a serious contender for song of the album, were it not for the section of foley from 1997 film Volcano.
Taking personal biases away from the genre for a second, and EDEN do seem to be awkwardly stuck between two points. Again, the way “The First Circle” has been advertised and spoken about is that it is highly-experimental, completely improvised, with a litany a musicians adding their own stamp to the overall sound, immediately drawing comparisons to the likes of MERZBOW, Zweizz and early Swans, which the band themselves consider an inspiration. However, with the drawing in of black metal, shoegaze, doom, slowly (and perhaps accidentally) building in more structure and flow to the album, it feels like it should be more towards noise rock contemporaries in the shape of Daughters, The Black Black or Unsane, yet this doesn’t feel quite right either. They’re too structured and dare I say “sensible” to be amongst the tr00 noise merchants, yet too abrasive and discordant to be lumped in with the more refined noise rock crop. They exist in a limbo alongside Oranssi Pazuzu, Lingua Ignota and Imperial Triumphant; great company to be around but hefty standards to meet.
If they continue down the blackened ASMR route though, I am intrigued at the prospect of potential collaborations with Amouranth, Gibi ASMR, matefedez, and ASMR Darling on album #2.
‘Gehenna’ (Official Video)
01. The End Of The Beginning
03. Swallow Your Tongue
04. The First Circle
05. Your Void is Mine
06. The Beginning Of The End
EDEN is a collective of multiple musicians creating music with vocals, bass, guitars, percussions (smashed plates, toy drums, jars, pieces of wood), prepared piano (altered with bolts and screws), distorted violin, noise sample, bowed guitar, ukulele.
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