The Eternal Drift's Canticles
Reviewed By Andrew McKaysmith
Verdun is an ancient city in the North East of France that played host to a particularly vicious and protracted battle on the Western Front during WW1. This battle is recognised as one of the most costly in terms of lives taken in human history. It is from this scene that the authors of The Eternal Drift's Canticles have adopted their band's moniker.
On this album the lads from France and Portugal have produced an exercise in sonic brutality and endurance that ironically contains a hint of optimism. Like tiny slivers of sunlight peering through the dense fog of damp winter cold onto a ground littered with ruined earth and spent shell casings, the band reveals the occasional flood of melody via a reverb-heavy picked guitar passage, then juxtaposes this against a repetition of slow, brooding riffs as the mechanism to paint the overarching scene.
There is an almost "frosty" vibe to the album, as in a similarity to the great masters Celtic Frost and their last release "Monotheist". Particularly in the tortured delivery of the vocals. It's tempting to reach further back and use proto 'Frost outfit Hellhammer as another reference. Both "Dark Matter Crisis" and "Glowing Shadows" could be the spawn of "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh" from 'Frosts' "Monotheist", and the manner in which the bass has been recorded to support the dirge of the guitar on the album is a case in point. Each riff is plutonium heavy and feels as though space (and time) is moving in unison with the shift of each barre chord up the lower part of the guitar neck.
Was there an opportunity for the lads to refine each riff and test them at a faster pace than what was recorded? You'd think so given how meticulously the arrangement in each song comes across. So if there is a knock on the album it is that a more significant change of pace in the many passages contained in any one of the five tracks would have been welcome. It's only obvious after repeated listens, and this is something metal aficionados manage well, that the album's many contours and layers reveal themselves. That comment is certainly not designed to detract from what is clearly obvious that Verdun are highly efficient protagonists of epic songs and apocalyptic soundscapes.
From a technical standpoint, the restrained drumming of Geraud Jonquet truly makes this album. His sense of timing is slightly behind the beat, and this adds an overall sense of foreboding and ominous anticipation that would have been lost on a less intuitive skins man.
So this is an album designed to draw you in, it rewards after repeated listens demonstrating the depth of song craft on display. It's best to stop what you are doing and put on a pair of headphones (preferably over Vinyl format), leave everything else on hold for 55 minutes while you receive the good word of Verdun. It's far too easy to say that it's a doom metal record with elements of prog and even classic rock (check out the riffs and Jay Pinelli/Mathieu Croux's guitar solo on "Jupiter's Covern"!) but that almost fits.
The album artwork is something else as well - like an alternative dimensional Darth Vader menacing the Star Destroyer with the Death Star in the background - the ghoul on the artwork is as malevolent as it gets! It would look fantastic on one of those all over print t-shirts.