It’s a Christmas fucking miracle – Dom is reviewing a metal record. The last time I did that was back in 2019, and that golden streak only has a fellow EIN editor to blame for getting killed. I humored his request, and our in-house music library offered to just send me a surprise selection. Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in it strictly for the shits and giggles at first, and so I accepted. Listening to the music I received shortly after had me realizing one thing right off the bat, though: this record needs to be treated with the respect it demands. I was absolutely floored by it as soon as the intro gave way to the first ferocious attack.
If you’re guessing that the band had to be a household band to win me over so quickly, well, I suggest you guess again. It was Greek post-black/doom metal band Euphrosyne (named after one of the three Graces in ancient Greek mythology) who made me eat my words rather unceremoniously with their latest EP Keres. The record’s title is another allusion to the mythology of their home country; there, Keres were referred to as death-spirits who would feast on those who died a gruesome death. Sufficiently metal, I suppose! On paper, their particular blend of music reads far less symphonic and progressive than it actually is – within 29 minutes, they weave a rich tapestry of dismal atmospheres.
Singling out the female vocalist of a metal band for praise is probably the most hackneyed thing a music journalist could do at this point, but I believe in the maxim that credit needs to be given where it’s due. Not to diminish the contributions by guitarist Alex Despotidis (fantastic last name, by the way), bassist George Gazis, and drummer Stelios Pepinidis one bit, they’re doing an outstanding job, but Efi Eva is an absolute powerhouse, and her sheer presence makes Keres even better than it already is. Her clean vocals are multifaceted, tasteful and elegant, her screams are fierce, and she switches between the two perfectly to match the intensity of any given moment. Euphrosyne is a force to be reckoned with, that much is undeniably true.
Time to face the music – literally. Keres starts off with the short symphonic piece “Black Opal”, where saxophone and strings are met with synths and guitar to introduce the listener to the dramaturgy of the following six tracks. Euphrosyne definitely benefitted from the experience Psychon (of Septicflesh fame) brought to the table for mixing and mastering, as this intro alone sounds gorgeous enough to entice you into a full listen. “Pale Days” jumps into the fray with pumping blast beats and atmospheric guitars backed by deep, dramatic strings. Eva unveils her unclean vocals against this sorrowful backdrop; after a brief string interlude, the intensity is ramped up even higher, but this time we’re treated to the first glimpse at her talents as a singer. Bonus points for Pepinidis absolutely dominating those blast beats.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was only the first 2 minutes of the song! Later on, we get a sweet guitar solo from Despotidis, more darkened ambiance, and a fantastic release of tension in the song’s finale; even the saxophone makes a satisfying return. If you want to know what level of musicianship to expect from Euphrosyne, look no further than “Pale Days”. “When My Fears Conquered All” counters this display with an omnipotent groove and weighty riffs. Whispered vocals give way to all-out screaming multiple times, and the melodic hooks always hit at the perfect moment. Then, “Sister Of Violence” unleashes Pepinidis’ impactful blast beats once more to build a dramatic black metal scenery. A dissonant breakdown of sorts leads into a clean-sung section, which in turn leads into a high-octane solo and a suspenseful ending backed by prominent strings – the dynamics are on point throughout Keres.
“Sunbringer” blends seamlessly into the outro of its predecessor. Musically, it’s built from the same materials as album opener “Black Opal”: acoustic and electric guitars, strings, and synths. It turns the lingering tension built across the last few tracks into a fine, menacing vapor, ready to materialize again at a moment’s notice. The electric guitar in particular radiates a wonderfully contrasting threat in this context. Clean notes ring in the arrival of “Within The Ages”, which pounces on you aggressively with razor-sharp riffs, punchy drums, and rumbling bass. Eva utilizes the full breadth of her vocal theatrics to enhance the dynamic, contrast-rich songwriting of her band mates. Also, that saxophone solo! I always love to hear this instrument in heavy music, and this is no different – the way it interacts with Eva’s high-register singing and deep screams is an absolute delight.
We are then ushered out by Keres’ title track, another short instrumental number. Almost mournful in tone, the piano and strings seem to be steeped in a deep regret. Maybe the eponymous death-spirits have come to see the brutality of their ways, and their wrath has given way to empathy for those who laid down their life? Either way, it’s an emotional finish to a forward-thinking, heart-wrenching, and thoroughly engaging EP. I did not expect to enjoy this offering from Euphrosyne as much as I did, but I’m glad I was made aware of it through the combined effort of my dear colleagues. Otherwise, I would’ve missed out on a fascinating, multi-faceted gem of a blackened doom metal record.