Within the tradition of fantasy literature, JRR Tolkein’s Mordor sits somewhere in the borderlands of a dark fantasy world, and just beyond Mordor is what Tolkein’s elves call Ephel Duath — the Mountains of Shadow. Summoning the energy, pathos, and subtle sense of irony culled from these psychic borderlands, Italian progressive-metal veteran Davide Tiso and his Ephel Duath project have conjured yet another potent — if not abbreviated — entry in their increasingly elaborate curriculum mortis.
Clocking in at 20 minutes, this three-track EP evinces the best of Ephel Duath’s avant-informed gloom, though it foregoes the melodic vocalizations and complex instrumentations used on albums like Rephormula (2002) and The Painter’s Palette (2003). As the directness of its title suggests, On Death and Cosmos opts for a more intense and aggressive approach. It doesn’t leave much room for reckoning, but that seems to be the point. It’s an intermission for a fated expedition — Into Thin Air, Italian style.
The EP precipitates two forthcoming full-length albums that also will be released by Poland’s Agonia Records. Though the EP embellishes on sonic themes established on Through My Dog’s Eyes (2009), Ephel Duath’s damn-near-all-star present lineup, established by Tiso in 2011, includes Karyn Crisis (Crisis) on vocals and Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament) on bass. Drummer Marco Minnemann (Necrophagist, Kreator), who played with the band from 2008 to 2009, also rejoined Tiso in 2011.
“Black Prism,” the first, longest, and strongest track, sets the pace for the short record. After a short, introductory guitar arpeggio, Crisis growls, “Alive between layers of perception / I’m neither here nor there.” On — or between — death and cosmos.