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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ephrat

No One's Words

Review by Julie Knispel

I like mood.

Oh, sure…there’s nothing wrong with straight-ahead, in your face, pedal to the floor metal. But give me a band that knows how to mix it up…a band that can add light and shade, shifting moods, going from aggressive heaviness to moody, semi-electronic feels from song to song (or even within a song), and you’ll have me hooked from the get go. Ephrat is just that kind of band. And they are from Israel.

Unlike their country-mates Amaseffer, Ephrat’s brand of progressive metal is far moodier and perhaps a bit more diverse, exploring regions populated by electronics, some loops, and telephoned in vocals. I am certain some of this is the result of Steven Wilson, whose gentle hand mixing No One’s Words (the group’s debut release) is felt throughout. Songs rise and fall, sounds ooze out of the darkness and then submerge once again. Heavy parts sound suitably heavy, while quieter sections generate as much unease as they do a relaxation of tension. Additionally, Ephrat’s material includes elements that one could only describe as ethnic…modes and scales help add a tonal colour that is generally absent from progressive rock, or at the very least played without the emotional honesty that Ephrat brings to bear due to their personal histories and backgrounds. I think a lot of people may end up comparing Ephrat and Amaseffer simply because both groups are Israeli. It’s not really a fair comparison; both bands tread different, if somewhat related, paths. I enjoy both bands equally and for different reasons, and find No One’s Words to be an impressive debut release, exhibiting diversity, strong song writing and instrumental playing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Show
Looped-sounding percussion opens the album and “The Show,” leading into buzzy guitars. I pick up a touch of Bob Mound-like "hive of bees" sound in the guitar here, and the slowed down section leading into the first verse sounds almost sludgy by comparison. Layered vocals switch off with Wilson-trademark "vocals over the phone wire" effects, and the switching off between the two styles works well.
Haze
The shift from “The Show” into “Haze” is handled very well, and it reminds me of the transition from “Burden” into “Porcelain Heart” off Opeth’s latest Watershed. It’s not that the two are at all similar (downtuning guitar line versus a simple repeated loop/ostinato), yet the result is similar; the transition eases the listener into the next track while maintaining (or creating) an eerie, unsettling mood.  Petronella Nettermalm of Swedish band Paatos adds her melancholy vocals on this composition, the first of two special guests on the release.  I absolutely adore “Haze;” I could easily see this song added to Paatos’ most recent album, and it is incredibly powerful in mood.
Better Than Anything
I also quite enjoy the "gentler" “Better than Anything,” which features some fantastic flute work courtesy of band founder Omar Ephrat. Well, the opening is gentler, at least. Otherwise, this is perhaps the heaviest piece on the album, and again I return to comparisons to the more exploratory, progressive side of Opeth as evidenced on their most recent efforts.
Blocked
“Blocked” opens with distorted guitars that almost chime, a strident beat pinning the rhythm to the floor.  Tempos are moderate, and once again Steven Wilson’s mix allows space and air between the instruments; while this is a reasonably heavy track, it also has a lighter feel, never ponderous or plodding.  Ephrat adds some nice change-ups with scattered starts and stops, some impressive drumming from Tomer Z. keeping things interesting.  3:30 in the song shifts gears significantly, moving from a heavier mood to incorporate a brief gentle respite before tossing the listener back into the maelstrom again.  The shortest track on this release, “Blocked” sees the band fully capable of crafting a fine instrumental that works just as well as a song.
The Sum of Damage Done
Daniel Gildenlow of Pain of Salvation contributes to “The Sum of Damage Done.”  I’ve been pretty constant in my opinion of Gildenlow over the years (personally, I find him to be somewhat over-rated in the scene), but even here I’ll say that I enjoyed the song he sings on. His vocals are distinctive, and it’s good to hear him singing rather than ranting.
Real
“Real” closes out the album, showing the band in almost all their guises. Portions sound almost Beatles-esque from time to time (I can’t think of any better description), acoustic sections break up tension and intensity, and heavier moments sound genuinely heavy by comparison. While perhaps the mix could have been a touch heavier, I can’t argue that Wilson’s mix decisions lead to a sound that sets Ephrat apart from a good portion of the progressive metal fraternity.
 
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