ALBUM REVIEW: The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail – Ether Coven

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ETHER COVEN has always made a point to be as explicit as possible in their songwriting, refusing to lightly tread around bleak and macabre subjects. It is what has ensured their releases to date reflect the subject matter in their intensity and heaviness, and so too has the tactic been deployed on their new record The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail. Only this time, their songwriting process has centred around vocalist and guitarist Peter Kowlasky‘s ongoing battle with colon cancer, giving the record that more human and vulnerable edge.

Sure enough, the result is a record that comes storming out of the gates brooding and pissed. Psalm Of Cancer sounds like a caged rabid bear that has been prodded and jabbed for far too long and the emotion and frustration is palpable. ‘There is no God, from my mouth to the sky‘ is one of the most acerbic refrains we’ve heard all year and the thundering racket of the band sweeps you away in a sea of crushing drums and guitars.

The fury and angst hangs thick around The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail, and this is elevated by the band’s decision to use pedals over plug-ins, and using the first vocal take in most instances to get the record sounding as close as possible to their live performance. All told, the album took just a week to record and the result is something that feels vital, conscious and real. The sludge and post-metal genres often align themselves with suffering and bleak torment; ETHER COVEN has delivered here one of the most real examples of it in recent memory.

Of Might & Failure is a distinctly bruising beast, lashing out with unfiltered violence amidst a sea of swaggering riffs. The shortest track on the record, it’s a compact and refined number that goes straight for the jugular but makes sure to strangle any remaining life out of its target as well with its unyielding pressure. At the other end of the spectrum, there are two songs that break the 10-minute barrier, including Afraid & Suffering which is a sustained monolith of sludge riffs and harrowing ambience. Melodic passages and melancholy sing-along choruses keep things moving at a fair clip and as a result, this song feels only half its length, slotting in perfectly to the rest of the album.

Beyond the obvious comparisons to NOLA sludge or even to the recent CONJURER record, ETHER COVEN has brought in a wide range of influences, so tarring this record with the sludge metal brush does the work a disservice, as the scope and breadth is so enriched. The Warmth Of Your Bathwater (the other 10-minute-plus track) is wrought with post-metal character and the vocals are reminiscent at times of Johannes Persson (CULT OF LUNA). Elsewhere on Of Might & Failure there’s an air of VEIN.FM‘s untameable aural assault that pummels and pounds without regard for anything in its way.

There’s no bones about it, The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail is a spectacular album. ETHER COVEN has managed to strike the perfect balance of emotive, heavy and driven, without ever feeling sappy or forced. They say write about what you know, and sadly Peter Kowlasky and co. certainly know about sadness and anguish. Though it is our sincerest hope that he wins his personal battle and the whole band can find some sort of peace with the wider issues that inform ETHER COVEN’s work, we can only sit back and marvel at how incredibly they have focused these frustrations into one of the year’s most crucial gems.

Rating: 9/10

The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail - Ether Coven

The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail is out now via Good Fight Music. 

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The post ALBUM REVIEW: The Relationship Between The Hammer And The Nail – Ether Coven appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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