Eventide delivers a master class in crafting ambient that is complex, sonically diverse, and easy to enjoy.

Release date: April 11, 2024 | Aesthetic Death | Facebook | Instagram

While counterintuitive at first glance there actually exists a significant overlap between metal and ambient. This subtle synthesis lurks in the shadows of intros, interludes, and backgrounds of many classic heavy metal albums. Some bands have simply chosen to make these elements more overt. And sometimes they take on a life of their own turning into full blown side projects. Such is the case with Waterline, the debut album by Eventide. A new ambient drone group featuring members of the French progressive death metal band Epitaphe.

This relationship between extreme metal and ambient has a rich and fruitful history. From ambient albums by Norwegian black metal bands of yore, to more recent examples such as Timewave Zero by Blood Incantation or Wolves in the Throne Room’s Celestite. Waterline is sonically quite distinct from either of those albums. Eventide dive much more heavily into drone and jazz influences than the psychedelic or black metal roots of those modern classics. However I would make the bold claim that Waterline deserves a place on the shelf right next to them and if you give this album a chance it might just earn a home in your heart.

The group have lent their name to the opening track “Eventide” which acts as a sort of invitation. Synthy organs and washed out vocals entwine taking on an almost devotional aspect. The only vocals on the entire album appear here as a brief welcome. After a somewhat jarring loud noise, sounds roughly like claves or similar being banged together, the vocals are replaced by a somber saxophone line that lazily moves through the track while the background hum swells and contracts. The sax then subsides as noise elements come into focus in a back and forth dance that will continue throughout Waterline.

Like the cover art, which vaguely resembles a river by way of an oil spill, the album ebbs and flows with liquidity. Recorded mostly live after a series of improv practice sessions, Waterline has a glowing feeling of warmth to it. The aural equivalent of a ghostly hug or slipping into a hot bath. The album is engaging in a way that a lot of ambient isn’t, without relying on loops like a lot of drone does.

The first half of “Waterline” is breezy and jaunty. Breakbeat drums at the fore feel lifted from a trip-hop joint backed up by a bouncy brass section out of some jazzy number playing in a smoke filled speakeasy. The mood is ethereal but the scene is a dance hall. The drums, sax, and noise crescendo in spectacular fashion. Only to fall off into a sort of noisy drone outro like stumbling out of a party into hazy woods.

Drone is often dark, unsettling, and challenging to listen to with harsh noise elements. Waterline is none of those things. This album is vibrant, welcoming, and easy to lose yourself in. That isn’t to say there aren’t darker sections to be found. The back half of “Eventide” and pretty much all of “Sphere” is especially foreboding as the hum and drone elements build to near overwhelming heights. But even as these sonic elements intensify the saxophone acts as an anchor and guiding light throughout. As melodies develop and fade away, as sounds hum in and out, the brass maintains an eternal grounding force keeping us from floating too far away.

The aptly named “Adrift” serves as a brief piano driven interlude. Even here the feeling is warm and inviting. There’s just a touch of noise and reverb lending a soft echo. The overall effect is of a stone gently tossed into a pond waves moving outwards in all directions. It’s a remarkably fluid transition to the second half of the album.

“Sphere” closes Waterline with deliberate pacing over its mammoth eighteen minute run. The track builds quietly at first and then there’s the familiar saxophone once again hospitable as ever while the drone and hum builds. Wobbles, chimes, and shrieks join the noisy ensemble flowing in and out of the composition. But throughout “Sphere” is the constant companion of the saxophone’s warm embrace. I can’t sing the praises of the sax on this album enough. The saxophone is truly the heart and soul of Waterline delivering beauty and harmony in dulcet tones. After one last haunting outing from the brass section a warm burbling hum and contemplative guitar lines play the record out.

Waterline is a profound experience of diverse creativity. The album is a journey across a sonic landscape that is as vast in its scope as it is intimate in its execution. The recording is so crisp and organic it sounds like not only are you in the room with the band, but you’ve been specially summoned forth to be enchanted. Wandering Waterline’s shores is far from aimless. Instead it feels like actively being pulled along by the current that is Eventide’s orchestral wizardry and attention to detail. This magical evocation is a soothing balm for the soul akin to the snug cozy warmth of hearth and home.

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