Under the best circumstances, a good EP will act as much as a teaser for future works as it will an experience of its own. I’ve heard countless pre-full-length EPs from bands before—most names of which I’ve long since forgotten—and I’ve come to realize that the best of them are ones that offer some sound I’ve never quite heard before. Given that the amount of music out there for digestion has never been so wide, it’s much easier said than done for a group to find their own niche. Thankfully, the Drowned God are one of the few that do. Although it’s clear they’ve left themselves some room to improve on the way to a full-length, The Ebony Void demonstrates a firm grasp of a style that should sound fresh to most of us hearing it.
In the Drowned God’s case, they’ve furnished an amalgam of all things ‘post’ and lapped a Game of Thrones reference onto it for good measure. I wouldn’t say The Ebony Void is the first time I’ve heard post-metal paired with post-hardcore (Bosse-de-Nage nailed it with their own All Fours album earlier this year), but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a blend like this. Where most of the post-hardcore elements’ dive into atmospheric metal tend to exploit the former’s penchant for angsty aggression and speed, the Drowned God build their compositions around well-calculated, methodical minimalism. It’s the sort of angle heard in a lot of ‘djent’ bands these days (Cloudkicker was the first to come to mind listening to this EP), but the Drowned God offer none of the same palm-mute worship. The Ebony Void rides on its contrast between its calculated, austere instrumentation and its vocals, which are anything but. The screams here are arguably the only thing that might imply a fusion of styles, but the adolescent howl sounds completely unfamiliar in a sound palette usually paired with beefier growls.
Regardless of how this style came together, know that it sounds unique. It sounds like the sort of thing only a band like the Drowned God could do, which—given the project’s relative infancy—is pretty high and mighty praise. I think they pull the style off really well too. The musicians’ experience is obvious in the way the guitar switches riffs seamlessly and the way the drums generally stick to a marching mid-tempo and manage to keep it sounding fresh. Above all, my strongest impression towards the Drowned God is regarding their atmosphere. The three songs here feel too packed with riffs and ideas to really sound like memorable tracks individually, but the band conjures a pretty rich atmosphere throughout the length. The Ebony Void feels advanced beyond the inaugural demos most bands put out; despite its length, it does sound like this EP was written as a single piece of music, and it should be listened to as such.
By the end, I think the Drowned God could have done with adding a little variety to their formula. Within twenty minutes, the sound starts to feel more familiar than it should. This is especially true for the vocals, which operate within a very limited (albeit angsty) spectrum, but flaws are to be expected with a first EP. I think the Drowned God have proven themselves more than worthy with this latest step. While I think they’ll need to do something to widen out their sound, the grasp of style is enough to make me think they’ve got what it takes to make a great debut when it comes time for such things.