2018, Profound Lore
Doom giants from back in the day usually take their time on a new album, and Evoken are no exception. Six years after Atra Mors (reviewed here), right at the point where you start wondering if the band is still active, we get Hypnagogia, their sixth album in 25 years. I feel old now.
Evoken’s style has always been on the border between the intense riffage of doomy death metal and the slow ponderings of funeral doom. On this latest album, the band chooses the middle ground more than ever: a slow to mid-tempo doom/death crawl that leaves ample room for lead guitars and synths to shine.
Strings are back on Hypnagogia in a big way, with synth cello embellishing the tracks in key moments. This draws the album close to what still remains the band’s masterpiece, Quietus. It seems almost unfair to compare those two albums as the 2000 work has an almost unassailable position in my pantheon of doom classics. And indeed, Hypnagogialacks something of the focus, relentlessness, and dynamics of its ancestor.
Like I said, the comparison is somewhat unfair, and definitely not the most relevant one we could make. Let’s compare Hypnagogia to, say, its contemporaries, and we find that no one nowadays sounds quite like Evoken. The compositions have a bent to them that other bands can’t or won’t touch, and that’s fine; many of them belong to a different generation. This is not to say that Evoken sounds old-fashioned. A more correct word would be venerable: a group of older dudes tapping from a well that many youngsters wouldn’t know the way to.
The band’s 2002 Promo continues to be a seminal piece, as some of the final unused riffs from that era have made their way into “Schadenfreude”. But more generally too Evoken manage to build on their own legacy here without repeating themselves, which is no mean feat. There are flourishes in the riffage and especially the synth melodies that you will find nowhere else in their discography.
Hypnagogia, then, is Evoken’s most relevant record since Antithesis of Light, and proof that bands can reinvent themselves in subtle ways over the course of a quarter of a century, while staying true to their own sound, which is after all that time still quite unique in the metal world.
Hypnagogia is out on November 9th through Profound Lore.