Ehnahre: The Scrape of the Keel | Album Review

Ehnahre

Ehnahre’s new album The Scrape of the Keel is out now.

The Scrape of a Keel is the latest full length effort from Boston’s experimental doom metal quartet, Ehnahre. This new album enters a new chapter into Ehnahre’s commitment to experiment with and explore extreme music. With each major release, they have delivered a new take on their style, a grinding, terrifying, improvised take on doom metal. The Scrape of a Keel is a collection of five pieces, four with vocals and one instrumental. Present as ever are lyrics lifted from modernist poets, the poems and poets being ‘Colossus’ by Sylvia Plath (also provides the album title), ‘Fizzle #4’ by Samuel Beckett and ‘De Profundis’ by George Trakl.

The album opens with ‘Colossus’. It wastes no time with black metal-informed tremolo picked riffs from guitarist Richard Chowenhill and bassist Ryan McGuire. Before long, drummer Joshua Carro joins with rolling, flaying blast beats. As the sound fills out, Chowenhill and pianist Jared Redmond engage with the chaos with dense improvisation and some serious guitar skronk. As the first third of the 11 minute piece end, a noisy, drone filled ‘ambience’ takes over, clearing the way for the final third of crushing, noisy, freeform doom and eventually, Plath’s poetry. A fearsome introduction.

Redmond’s piano and noise introduce the second track, ‘The Birds Have Vanished’. A very modern classical approach, with discordant and dissonant piano and flat, terrifying percussion, the instrumental slowly moves forward, a far cry from metal but not from doom. The track moves through dense, completely freeform improvisation before echoing out to a sample and piano.

‘I Gave Up Before Birth part 1’ take its title and lyrics from Beckett’s ‘Fizzle #4’. Musically, it is classic Ehnahre. Huge circular riffs, far more death metally than most doom metal, roll back and forth between the guitar and bass at a slow pace, the drums and piano filling out any space not filled. Ryan McGuire’s shouted and screamed vocals fit in almost like another instrument. Feedback washes over the piece and bass drones take hold as a twisting, snaking guitar riff descends through the second half of the piece.

‘I Gave up Before Birth part 2’ takes the same lyrics and aesthetic template of ‘part 1’. Doomy, droning guitar and adorning piano introduces the piece and it expands from there. Again, the guitar and bass lead the charge, swimming in and out of the mix, while repeating the one monolithic riff over and over again. The piano and drums emphasise the vague beats and complete the improv.

The final track takes its title from George Trakl’s ‘De Profundis’. ‘It Is a Light That Goes Out in My Mouth’ features a non-distorted guitar loop introduced in the spacious opening. The loop’s volume increases and decreases throughout the track, sometimes fading entirely but it remains the anchor around which the band improvises. Achingly slow, guitar and piano float far above McGuire’s rumbling bass drones. Just before the halfway mark, the track enters weird territory with what sound like vocoder vocals and space age guitar. Whatever the space, Ehnahre keeps it austere and undeniably metal.

The Scrape of a Keel is a fantastic album. Ehnahre shows an uncompromising dedication to experimenting, to improvising and to metal. They possess a strange, rare quality wherein they can sound more metal and more terrifying than most bands without ever relying on the tropes of the diverse genre. ‘The Scrape of a Keel’ is a must for anyone who likes their music heavy, free and scary.

Order The Scrape of the Keel via Bandcamp.

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