Ethereal Riffian, despite constructing an incredibly unique doom metal sound over the past five years or so, have managed to stay completely off my radar until now. And what the Ukranian doomers have brought to the table with I AM. Deathless is a fascinatingly psychedelic doom metal sound that cleverly challenges our understanding of the genre without sounding forced. They make their point sonically, but at only two tracks we are definitely left with a lingering curiosity about how this could be expanded. Which, for an EP, is a good thing.
Two tracks, as I mentioned, are broken down to “Drum of the Deathless” and “Sword of the Deathless” and I’d be lying to you if I said the perceived lack of connection between the first word of each track didn’t bother me a bit (I mean come on, how about “Sword…” and “Shield…”). I guess drums can be purposeful in battle, but, whatever. I’m done complaining. Together, they cover 17 minutes of music, so the songs are a bit lengthy (especially the latter). But the amount of diversity and experimentation they cram into these few minutes is quite impressive, and the sound production only helps carry everything along.
The first of these two tracks, “Drum of the Deathless”, opens in a logical way as the sound is driven by a rather catchy percussional pattern before the other instruments kick in — which, obviously, includes a didgeridoo. Because why not? But for as psychedelic as the sound becomes with each passing minute, the pace stays relatively consistent, which makes the overall feeling of the music cohesive. The droning vocals offer an appropriately new feeling to the music as well. There are more traditional leads mixed into the middle stages of the track, including a fairly technical guitar solo, which almost sounds out of place because of how out there everything else is. But it’s certainly an enjoyable six minutes to be sure.
“Sword of the Deathless”, on the other hand, is a far more challenging ten minutes to an audience. Semi-spoken droning chants eat up the first minute before the same instrumentals kick in at a far more deliberate cadence than the first track. The vocal phrasing is unchanging and the sound itself doesn’t start to expand for another minute or two, where the vocals take a break, leads come into play, and the song starts to meander in different directions. The psychedelic aspect of the music is still here, but the slower paces and drawn out passages make this seem a bit more forced and a bit less interesting overall. And the last two minutes-plus, figured to be the outro, is expanded longer than necessary and doesn’t make the sound any more clever. Still dynamic, but not constructed as well as the opening track.
Overall, I can’t think of a reason not to give I AM. Deathless a spin. On the one hand, let’s be clear, this is a really cool take on doom metal/rock that I am completely fascinated by. Their whole approach to music, and their way of pushing our understanding of certain genres, is awesome. And the end product is quality as well. Sure, there are moments on these two tracks that tend to drag on, but when all is said and done, it’s an EP that leaves you both impressed and curious. So much can be done with the sound introduced on I AM. Deathless and it’s exciting to think about where it will end up going.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”