Ephel Duath: Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness

Progressive metal maestro makes a dazzling return

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Given that Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness, represents Ephel Duath’s first full-length album in over half a decade, and with helmsman David Tiso’s known proclivity for totally refreshing his band’s lineup, you might expect it to be as confused an affair as its MC Escher-referencing cover art.

Escher, however, didn’t sketch his geometrically dazzling tessellations overnight and likewise Tiso has been honing his unique amalgam of jazz/death/prog metal for nearly 15 years. If last year’s On Death And Cosmos EP, felt particularly exploratory and raw, it’s now clear that it was a sketch for the fully realised, cohesive onslaught of Hemmed…, pulling off a similar trick to Norway’s Shining by making the deeply complex utterly accessible, from the Gojira-in-maths-class stuttering assault of opener Feathers Under My Skin to the delicate prog/jazz of the two title tracks.

And whilst Tiso’s stunningly diverse guitar work rightly deserves plaudits, it’s the vocal contribution of his wife, tendril-haired Karyn Crisis, that provides the greatest reward and intrigue, her bizarre variety of death metal growls, porridging and blackened howls providing an acidic, corrosive edge to what is arguably the group’s most rewarding body of work.