Have you ever been completely suckered by an album cover? Here you’re faced with the singer doing her best to impersonate Lady Gaga and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re about to be plunged into some eighties pop metal album rather than the complex, Therion-esque opera metal that leaps out of the speakers. However, while Therion employ a number of singers to perform their music, Ayin Aleph employs a variety of voices, costumes and dramatic devices which vary according to the mood she is trying to portray (although Kate Bush is a good starting point as she bears a passing resemblance to that, equally eccentric singer.
First track ‘Hamlet’ is every bit as complex as the play from which it takes its name – a bombastic powerhouse of the track which sees Ayin assume multiple personalities while the music rages around her. Actually far better than it sounds on paper, the whole schizophrenic drama sounds fantastic and it helps that the producer has done a sterling job of maintaining vocal clarity amidst the instrumental chaos that rages around Ayin. ‘My bloody marriage’ opens with a creepy sample that is part Hammer Horror, part Monty Python. The very metal track that follows however is far from comical, coming across as somewhere between Therion, Faith No More and The Sparks…. it is intriguing and not a little captivating and encourages you to delve deeper into the album’s charms. ‘Aleph’ sounds with a sensual monologue that then shifts into a breathy, piano ballad that is madder than a fish in willies and far more interesting than Muse’s overblown histrionics with which it shares a similar heritage before the guitars chip in and the whole thing goes really mental – the band even squeeze in a splendidly deranged solo for good measure.
A track-by-track guide here is rather as useful as attempting to draw a literal map of the underground; the music is deft and complex, often shifting mood on a dime with Ayin randomly throwing characters at you with little respect for your fraying sanity. That is not to say that it is bad, quite the opposite – but you need to have a little patience, and a desire to embrace the unexpected to truly appreciate the genius that lurks at the heart of this project. Picking highlights is impossible also because the album works so well as a complete piece and tracks in isolation lack the impact of the record as a whole.
Music such as this oft defies categorisation and its unique nature makes it a special thing to behold, but that uniqueness comes at a price. While I would whole-heartedly recommend Ayin Aleph to the more adventurous amongst you it has to be said that this is “Marmite music” as I fear that for every person who succumbs to Ayin’s not inconsiderable charms, another listener will find it excruciatingly irritating. This is truly over-the-top music with attitude and invention to spare, not to mention the top class production and evident skill of the musicians involved, but it is also difficult music; complex, strange and occasionally completely baffling. An excellent release but an eccentric one – worth hearing nonetheless.