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.
First up is the third album from California’s Decrepit Birth, Polarity. This album is a great example of the band’s name and the album’s title bringing to mind two completely different things. “Decrepit birth” sounds like a schlock-y gore-grind band, while “polarity” suggests spaced-out, progressive rock. Truth be told, it’s a bit of both.
Like Necrophagist before it, Decrepit Birth sticks to the old-school, growled, and slightly raspy styles of vocals in addition to its very complex, other-worldly music. This tactic is employed as a foundation: it doesn’t matter what Bill Robinson is growling about; it just matters that he does it consistently and with enough force to keep the album grounded throughout. With that being said, Robinson chooses his phrasing and placement of vocals well, allowing plenty of time for the rest of the band to do its thing, which really begins a minute and a half into Polarity, when there’s a Spanish-influenced guitar break out of nowhere.