Review: Echthros - Iyov (Assonance Records, 2012)
Echthros is the cinematic, atmospheric project of Bartosz Frąckowiak. Released in a beautiful, high-quality artwork on the up-and-coming Polish label for dark and experimental sounds, Assonance Records, Echthros explores the themes of despair and loss in six monumental, powerful tracks. These themes are no accident here, because, as the author explains on his Bandcamp page: “Iyov (…) is the biblical Job”.
The very opening “Underneath” begins with the sound of a thunder and rain, a field recording document gradually transforming into a heavy, ominous drone cathedral echoing the work of Sunn O))), especially their church-based Domkirke. But the guitars don’t kick in just yet, the first track is just a preparation for the things to come, and Echthros prepares us for a real ritual music/dark ambient feast with wonderful and spine-chilling Eastern Orthodox choral music. Needle-like whistles add even more coldness to the already frightening and uninviting wall of low vocals, like the long icicles hanging from the ceilings and windows of an old monastery the listener finds accidentally while stumbling through the winter night.
The descent into the night wouldn’t be complete with some heavy, sustained guitar torture. The second track, “Iyov” brings the Sunn O))) style guitar drones, stretched and harsh, but here they’re not as soul-crushingly heavy as the sounds of the American duo, instead they create a sort of hoarfrosty, vibrating tapestry which seems to be the logical progression of the chanted prayers of the previous track. From now on, the cascading guitar drones will be on almost every track of the album, marking their unavoidable reign over the rest of the elements. There are however moments of resting from the constant amplifier worship, like the heavenly “The Opponent”, which is a treat for David Tibet acolytes, setting Current 93-like spoken word passage against the vocal-based light ambient track. Or the shortest track on the album, the nearly 4 minute “A Prayer”, which is based on an old Russian melody, a bassy and mysterious Orthodox prayer which could only come from the frozen and undiscovered Eastern wilderness.
The music is perfectly complemented by the album packaging, which is a strong point of Assonance Records, always striving to give the highest quality and unconventional ideas for their CD’s. Printed on heavyweight paper, the front cover depicts Job (or Iyov) himself, a simple yet powerful image perfectly channeling all the suffering and sorrow Job had to go through. The inside features the lyrics in English and Russian to all the spoken and sung pieces on the album (including the Eastern Orthodox invocations and prayers!). A perfect album for the cold, black winter nights. Enter the dark realms.