Review: MIRRORS OF OBSIDIAN – ‘From One Form’… Posted: 14/06/2017 by Philip Morrissey
There are times when a band simply has to make a choice. Do they continue as a project for themselves, content in order to produce material for release, but not willing to go beyond the studio. Or do you strive to take what you have out on the road to see how far it can take you. The advantages of the former is that the hassles of dealing with promoters and agents to put on shows where attendances is by no means guaranteed. There is a considerable outlay in terms of transport, and can often be difficult scheduling events with family and work pressures. The advantages of the latter is the greater exposure you can achieve. The sounds can reach a wider audience. Contacts and advice is more achievable as you support and tour with different bands. The opportunity to play on the same billing as some of your heroes can also be fulfilled. This dilemma is faced by many bands in this country at the moment. THE VICIOUS HEAD SOCIETY, LADY MAGGOT, THE CASSINI PROJEKT, COTA and EORÐESLAJYR to name but a few.
MIRRORS OF OBSIDIAN are also facing this predicament. Whilst Ciaran Ennis was displaying his lungs for traditional heavy metallers, CELTIC LEGACY, he was also experimenting on the sidelines. Himself and his brother, Eoin Ennis, decided to go in a heavier direction. Particularly that of technical death metal with influences from modern groove metal bands. Originally called AEON ARTEREA, they took on the Mirrors title prior to the release of their debut album “Imminent Chaos Complete” in 2010. This was released via free download in 2010 and featured the mastering skills of one Dan Swano. Not a bad name to have associated with you! In the meantime, CELTIC LEGACY fell by the wayside. The project which had been shelved for a while, was taken down, dusted off and revived. Yet again, the album features just the two brothers. Ciaran on vocals and Eoin sorting out all the instrumentation. The mastering on this occasion was provided by Mick Kenney of ANAAL NATHRAKH.
Opener ‘Neutral Disease’ sets the scene for what to expect. This has already been released as a video. High intensity shots of the two at work, are intermingled with what seems to be a history of life on this planet. It kicks straight into a flurry of guitars and drums. This is is all set against a low, churning bass. Not quite to the level of a drone or doom piece but interesting nonetheless. Ciaran’s vocals are more of the low growl or shouted style rather than more of the harsher techniques such as squeals or deeper grunts. The tempo drops momentarily in speed but manages to maintain the level of intensity. It features some well played guitar lines at stages, some of which appear to have been double-tracked. Understandable to try and beef it up. Undoubtedly, there is a definite homage being played to bands like MESHUGGAH. ‘Close to Interception’ features yet another breakneck entrance. Guitars, bass and drums all steam into show. Tasty riffing makes its presence felt before the vocals appear and there is certainly plenty happening. There are certainly quite a few chunky patterns at times. Quite a GOJIRA feel at times. The vocals are perhaps more in tune with modern sounding bands and particularly those engaged with the groove metal scene. Robb Flynn of MACHINE HEAD and the likes. On occasions, they almost sound robotic, perhaps due to effects being applied to them. The playing and vocals drop into a brief quiet section before thumping back in with increased vigor.
This pattern continues over the next few tracks in terms of the opening and much of the remainder. And this is what partially lets the album down. It can become slightly repetitive at times to go over the same pattern. Without mixing things up, it veers dangerously close to bro-dudery. It is not to say it contains nothing of interest however. ‘Eternity Gone’ displays some interesting sections involving the guitars and drums. They are spiky, confrontational and certainly pack a punch. ‘The Core’ allows for a smooth and melodic guitar piece, which is very well played and provides an element of variety. Ciaran also contrasts his vocals to become more gutteral at times. This is the other track which was released as a single. The switch in vocal styles works even better on ‘Blood and Chrome’. A familiar beginning, sees a mood change to a more woozy, sludgy feel. It perhaps would not be too far removed from offerings from bands like MASTODON. It provides the first opportunity for him to employ a cleaner set of vocals. Channeling his inner Joe Duplantier perhaps. After a switch back, it reaches its conclusion via a slow, meandering path.
The intro alters somewhat on ‘Violent Reprisal’ and makes for a welcome change. It is more of an electronic, techy vibe and has shades of FEAR FACTORY about it. This is further enhanced by the use of effects on the vocals at stages. It features great guitar lines throughout. It reaches a section of dueling guitars and percussion which adds plenty of atmosphere and tension. As it reaches its powerful conclusion, there is the sensation of being dragged, kicking and screaming, through space and time. More alterations occur with ‘Lightwaves’ which kicks off with strong, solid drum beats alongside the guitars. Once it all kicks in, it becomes fairly unrelenting. It contains some quite tasty guitar lines at times, but suffers slightly from abrupt and sudden changes in tempo. More sequences are applied over the drumming, prior to the track’s conclusion, as a continuation from before. And yet more permeate the album’s closer, ‘From One Form’. It contains a slow and ominous build-up with some great clean vocals from Ciaran. The speed and tempo changes with the introduction of the drums as the piece spirals and twists like a fish on a hook. The guitars are at the heart of most of this with their rapidly changing time signatures and patterns. It signifies a satisfying conclusion to the album.
Overall, a very promising album. It did drag somewhat in the middle period for me, as it became somewhat formulaic at times. It is, of course, up to the creators of the music to decide on their own path. From the outside, it seems that they are unsure whether to stick with a fairly tried and tested groove metal and New Wave of American Heavy Metal or to get more experimental. There are certainly plenty of outfits testing the boundaries at the moment, both here and abroad. One name which has been closely linked to them, ALLEGEON, definitely could be a blue-print for them.
In the meantime, bigger decisions need to be made on the band’s future. The Ennis brothers have stated that it is their intent to make this band a live prospect. To achieve this, new additions are obviously required. Eoin would need to grow extra limbs to keep up otherwise. So far, they have been able to recruit Nathan Ford on bass and Killian Cheller on guitar. Their hunt for a drummer has so far proven to be fruitless but the search continues. I am assuming Eoin wishes to stay on lead guitar or else he could have filled that slot. His work in this album was certainly solid and powerful enough to do so. Here is hoping that a finalised line-up can be achieved and live dates can be announced. It would certainly be interesting to see how they would translate to the live arena.