Packaged in a stunning, full-colour digi-pack, and coming from Crucial Blast, the highly respected and extremely selective label for all things sonically challenging, ‘Old Earth’ sees avant-death/doom act Ehnahre return for their third album, and a crushing, dissonant beast it proves to be over the course of its corrosive thirty-seven minute run-time.
Dispensing with titles as such, ‘Old earth’ is simply split into four movements, giving the piece a neo-classical feel, and the ebb and flow of the music certainly has more in common with the composers of yore than with modern song-writing structure and technique. Opening in a haze of disconcerting noise, static and electric hum the first track is the auditory equivalent of a horror film, the unfamiliar noises cranking up the tension to breaking point so that when the guitars do chime in it is almost a relief. Creaky, bass heavy, coated with dust, you can imagine this being the music played deep in the heart of Miss Havisham’s mansion as it rolls out of the speakers smeared with rot and corrosion. It’s terrifying, haunting, compelling – you can’t tear yourself away although your natural instinct is to run and you have to wonder how a piece of music can tear you in so many directions at once. With nods to the horror of Oxbow and Khanate, this is certainly not music to undertake lightly, either as a listener or as a participant, but the results are astonishing; music that truly caters to the darkest recesses of the soul and when the band finally do burst into life it is with the blazing, vicious intensity of an unseen knife attack, the swollen bursts of guitar devastating and then gone before you’ve even fully appreciated their torturous might. It’s a long, dark-hearted track that bleeds and suppurates, and then ends suddenly slipping into the thickly oppressive, double-bass-led second movement. Like being trapped in a building where all the angles are skewed, nothing is as it seems and Ehnahre’s greatest achievement is to draw you into a world that is beset by nightmares and where exposition and clarity are tantalisingly forever just out of reach. Subtle, jazzy and yet inherently menacing the second track may not be as brutally appalling as its predecessor, but there is something in the restraint that is all the more terrifying, like the killer who sharpens his knives slowly and carefully before the kill, it speaks of an uneasy calm before a blood-soaked storm.
After the fear-soaked second track listeners realise they can truly expect anything from this genre-melting album and so it transpires for the third movement hauls itself from the wreckage to deliver a searing, toxic blast of ravaged death metal that sits somewhere between Dillinger Escape Plan at their most avant-garde and Neurosis. It is stunningly unpleasant, and yet a relief for the monster in the cupboard is finally unleashed and we can all see it for what it is, blood dripping from its savage claws, rather than have our imaginations running riot as they were during the second track. Still operating within a coruscating framework of free-jazz, there is little the listener can hold on to for the sake of sanity, the only option being to stick with it to its brutal conclusion and hope you survive the massacre. The final movement similarly offers little in the way of resolution, the band opting to segue straight into a brutal nose-dive straight into the very heart of hell, the guitars at hurricane strength, whilst the vocals speak of eternal torment at the hands of demonic inquisitors, only for the death-ride to suddenly slow in a shower of sparks, deep within the earth’s core, leaving you suspended between heaven and hell; sanity and insanity; and, crucially, back in the house of horrors in which you started at the outset of this terrifying work.
Ehnahre are not a band to be recommended to everyone, nor, one imagines, would they want to be. Rather this is immaculately produced and performed music created first and foremost for its creator’s pleasure, and then, as an afterthought, released for the enjoyment of a select few masochists who lament the passing of Khanate and consider Neurosis a touch on the soft side. Utterly non-commercial, this is music crafted purely as a work of art and everything from the tar-stained production job to the amazing artwork speaks of care and love being lavished on this dizzyingly horrific record. This will be adored by those that understand its charms and comes highly recommended to those with the required fortitude to stomach it.