(EchO) – Head First Into Shadows – review

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Musically and vocally, (EchO)’s sophomore full-length is accomplished, varied and interesting.

Formed in Brescia, Italy, in 2007, (EchO) return with sophomore album, ‘Head First into Shadows’, the follow up to 2011’s well-received ‘Devoid of Illusions’. If you’re wondering, the unusually formed name of the band is inspired by the nymph, Echo, of Greek mythology who fell in love with Narcissus, and the parenthesis that envelop the name are intended to represent the sound waves created by (EchO)’s atmospheric Doom sound. Certainly an interesting story behind the band name, and a promising debut in 2011, but does this always-tricky second album build on this solid foundation?

From opener, ‘Blood and Skin’, it’s clear that this is an album with some range and depth. Beginning in sombre Post-Metal style with clean vocals and atmospheric keyboards, the energy is soon pushed all the way into 11 with a sludgy Doom riff and growled Death Metal vocals. Throw in a soaring, melancholy guitar solo and it’s an impressive opener that showcases many of the band’s influences. Next up, ‘This Place We Call Home’ begins with a trippy acoustic riff and clean vocals, before once again launching into a brutal Doom assault for the chorus, then reverting back to the gentler acoustic feel of the verse. It’s a contrast that adds light and shade and makes the crushing chorus seem that much heavier after the relative calm preceding it.

The effective combination of styles, as Post-Metal, traditional Doom, Death Metal, and even some Prog flourishes provided by Simone Mutolo’s excellent keyboard playing, makes things interesting throughout. Vocally, Fabio Urietti is on top form bringing just the right balance of melancholy to his clean vocal parts, whilst letting loose with full Death Metal growling intensity at times, too. The epic ‘Gone’, (which features guest vocals from Jani Ala-Hukkala of Finnish Post-Metal band, Callisto) is surely the album highlight. Clocking in at a whopping 11 minutes, it’s a journey that begins with a chiming, melodic opening and alternates between brutal intensity and reflective Post-Metal, always underpinned by the same hypnotic melody. Contrasting vocal styles, switches between brutal Death Doom Metal intensity and plaintive Post-Metal, and an instrumental passage that builds in intensity into a frenetic crescendo, all serve to showcase the best of (EchO) in one ambitious session.

Musically and vocally, ‘Head First into Shadows’ is accomplished, varied and interesting. It fuses its various styles and influences into an impressive and distinctive sound for (EchO). Perhaps the one thing the album lacks is some truly outstanding song writing that could give the material an anthemic quality that would move the band onto another level. That said, ‘Head First into Shadows’ is noteworthy sophomore effort that suggests great things to come from (EchO) in the future.

Tracklist :
01. Blood And Skin
02. This Place We Used To Call Home
03. Beneath This Lake
04. Gone
05. A New Maze
06. Order Of The Nightshade

Duration : Approx. 51 minutes