What’s the most important thing for any album out there? Well, it’s subjective, there are no correct answer to this, as every listener has his own preferences for the music. However, I think it won’t be a stretch to state that album’s mood and atmosphere is of a major significance, and some CDs are just meant to be spun in certain circumstances, whether it be a weather condition, a specific time of year, an environment surrounding you at the moment, you name it. There are records painting the lively forests and plains and seas of unthinkable beauty; and then there are records reminding you of industrial towns with intricate patterns of busy, crowded streets. There are albums making you jump and shine with uncontrollable bursts of energy, filling you with sheer happiness; and then there are albums invoking the sense of deep grief, flooding you with inexpressible sorrow. There is music for sweet summer days full of ardent sun; or for tranquil and frosty winter days or nights, when the snow covers the earth thick; and then there is music for the endless bleak, dull days with somber sky and the furious, unceasing rains outside. And the latter is the exact characterization of the album I’ve got my hands on to review here.
Written and recorded by German quintet Eden Circus, their debut album Marula runs for slightly over an hour. The band describes it as “holistic and mature rock”, and this turns out to be true on the whole, for mature rock it is, with a number of post-rock and alternative elements emerging along the way. Ominous acoustic guitar passages are present in abundance, exploding with heavy riffs, and supported by a few vocalists, relentless drumming and raucous growls here and there. In fact, there are three musicians performing vocals on Marula: Siegmar Pohl, Michael Reinke and Andreas Höfler, the latter two are also playing drums and guitar respectively. Nils Finkeisen is rocking on the second guitar and the last but not least, Sebastian Scheewe is doing those basslines. Speaking of the bass and the mix as a whole, it deserves a specific mention for its crystal clear sound quality. The band took the production in their own hands and the result is spectacular, every instrument is audible, including the powerful bass and sonorous drums; all the subtle details can be appreciated thanks to this thorough approach.
The record’s bleakness is reflected impeccably by Devoid of Purpose, the first track. The mood is set literally in first ten seconds by the first notes of that mysterious intro. Hoarse vocals along with brooding acoustic sounds and few injections of distorted guitars are going well together, forming a solid, appealing contrast. The track ends in a soothing, somnolent way, but don’t get too relaxed. Comfort opens with a bones crushing riff, and ironically substitutes all the feelings of comfort with a sudden urge to start headbanging, even if only for a few moments. This riff is occasionally brought back a few times during the song. Otherwise, the first half of Comfort is mostly a spiritual successor of the opener; however, the second half is slightly different due to the presence of growls, or is that screams? Growly screams? Either way, they are nicely incorporated with the calm parts.
After Comfort, I found myself wondering what else can come up into my headphones, and I was pleasantly surprised with a groovy short tune called A Desert In Between. The hollow acoustic notes once again harmonizing perfectly with heavy parts with an apparently rather fast pace; the song is well-structured and I tend to mark it as more accessible, not only because of length, but also because of how it manages to draw the listener’s attention. The next number (pun intended), 101, continues in the same vein, being probably the most aggressive and also the catchiest tune on Marula. There are these extremely heavy choruses, a few spoken samples and a lot of atmospheric instrumental goodness too. If I had to compare every song on the album with the weather outside, this would be a damnable storm with loads of thunder. But the anger and heaviness ebbs and flows in Marula, and next we’re getting Arc, another groovy track allowing the album to breathe a bit. The bass, drums and guitars are holding the stage here, driving the song forward, while vocals are playing the secondary role.
Now, do you feel rested enough? Have a single distorted note right in your face! That’s basically how Summon A Ghost rolls, and once again, in what I consider to be the trademark Eden Circus sound, the sheer heaviness beautifully flows into haunting and regretful melodies and vice-versa, quite a journey. Another intensive number, A Shore Uncertainty, starts with a drum roll and a riff that can be compared with a rock avalanche or something like that. It’s like it constantly punches you in the face, in a good way (I’m not sure if that’s even possible). The song follows its predecessor structure, with the tranquil middle section and completely nuts ending. I’ve already mentioned the album feels like you’re in the midpoint of relentless rain, and it seems the band was unconsciously aware of that with this frenzied «why is it raining again?!» shout. Or, well, maybe not.
Her Lovely Hands Upon The Black Earth greets the listener with waves of deliberation and confidence. The song is incredibly cohesive for its nine minutes length, never gets neither too heavy, nor too boring; it just keeps developing and building up until the five minutes mark, where this immense bassline kicks in and just leaves me speechless. Small wonder this track was released as a single, it’s got everything you can wish for; and after the grand conclusion to this outstanding section, the mellow outro feels so organic. And I thought it was the epic finale, but the album’s closer, Playing You, once again proved me wrong. It conjures up a longing, yearning impression over the first few minutes, and then with one last grow imperceptibly flows into the magnificent ending. The whole piece of work is reflected in this from enigmatic, haunting passages to leisurely, adjusted pace.
Eden Circus indeed created a mature, complex piece of music with a lot of details to digest. What really helped me appreciate their work is that I listened to this album completely open-minded. It has a lot of influences, a lot of different vibes, yet it didn’t sound exactly like any of the bands I know. There are no useless, dragged sections, the songwriting is tight even though half of songs are over eight minutes mark, and the stellar mix certainly helps me appreciate Marula even more. Once again, I think this album is meant to be listened in a certain, preferably sullen mood; and if I had to summarize my feelings about it in one sentence, it would be something along the lines «the rainy days can be enjoyable too».