Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
My awareness of Brooklyn, New York’s gritty, heavyweight trio of opaque doom metal, ETERNAL BLACK, began upon meeting drummer Joe Wood at the very first Maryland Doom Fest in 2014.
At that time, he shared the myriad musical endeavors he is involved with, including this priority-ranking act rounded out by guitarist and vocalist Ken Wohlrob and bassist Hal Miller. In the years since that time, I have been privileged with befriending the band, along with seeing them perform live on a handful of occasions. Our connection, if you will, is one that also includes my pleasure in reviewing [here] their first full-length album, 2017’s ‘Bleed The Days.‘
This summer, just prior to catching up with the guys and seeing them live at the 2019 edition of the Maryland Doom Fest, they released their sophomore outing, ‘Slow Burn Suicide‘, via their Obsidian Sky Records label. The album was recorded at Suburban Elvis Studios, produced and mixed by Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall, with mastering by Tony Reed at HeavyHead Recording Company. It was a perfectly timed arrival, leaving just a little over a week to delve into the album and acquaint myself with its contents in a pre-fest crash course. It also turned out to be one revealing a branching out for ETERNAL BLACK, with substantially significant evolution in varied aspects of their music.
This is something that is established right at the very beginning of the album with the intro piece “All These Things Destroy You…“. The 81-second instrumental passage is an odd departure for the band, but a great one in the way that its hazy meandering lulls one into a bit of an unexpected state. It disarms you just enough to where you let your guard down as it unfolds… though that move itself is a mistake, one you will soon second guess.
The cause of that reconsideration is “Lost In The Fade“, though it really isn’t (get it?), especially at first. It is not because the song explodes on the listener in any way or anything, no, not at all. In fact, it is the exact opposite really for yes, the instrumentation does make its presence known, sure. Yet, in doing that, it is subdued, restrained even once an isolated crunch drops like a ton of bricks, then resonates across a bit of rhythm-imbued, tribal-like drumming. Gradually powering up, there is the sense of a pressure building and building, and when finally loosed, what comes is a wave-like deluge of groove and density.
Truth is, these two things have long been a stock-in-trade for this trio, mastered in the past and manufactured yet anew within this latest record. They are both repeatedly generated throughout this material, ever-present elements to songs like “Below“, or the fiercely fuzz enriched “A Desert Of No Name.” At the same time, other components have been tinkered with, and ultimately improved upon, such as Wohlrob‘s vocals. This portion of the album’s contents is quick to reveal a conscious effort has been made in upgrading them, in comparison to those on past recordings.
“The Ghost” is an ideal example of this, overall, the song serving like a bridge between the past of ETERNAL BLACK and now. It does so in the sense that this is what the band does best, doom the hell out with molasses-y riffs, toned low, thick and syrupy, and nailed into place upon excessive rhythms. All the while, the augmented vocals displaying strength, better inflection, and increased range.
ETERNAL BLACK doesn’t beat around the bush about the fact they are a true American doom band. One with a foot in the traditional past, while the other treads in the real-time, here and now. With songs like “Sum Of All Fears” and “Sinners, Saints, And Madmen“, our thunderous three acknowledge the greats like Iommi, Edling, and Wartell/Franklin in the band’s guitar emissions. The same can be said for the bass and drums, wearing influences of Butler and Ward, or Reeder and Rogers, openly for all to hear.
When one does hear them by means of the ‘Slow Burn Suicide‘ album, we hear an uncompromising devotion to heaviness. Beyond prevalent, it is dominant and consuming, even when the goal is seemingly not to be, like we find in the haunting “Three Fates” (background vocals and piano on “Three Fates” by Kol Marshall) or the reprise that closes the album, “All These Things (Slight Return)“.
It is up to you to discover these things for yourself, to experience the ETERNAL BLACK guided descent into a less well-lit netherworld jam-packed with impassioned expression. Stream ‘Slow Burn Suicide‘ from ETERNAL BLACK in this review or press onward to Bandcamp, with further streaming and purchase options available HERE.