Euphoreon is the studio project of one Matt Summerville, who has collaborated with a keyboardist (and presumably a drummer, though I see none listed) to put out a full-length release following the band's 2009 demo "Before The Blackened Sky". Interestingly, Euphoreon hails from New Zealand, which is not a nation typically known for its melodic death metal bands, to my knowledge. However, for a self-released LP from a far-flung corner of the world, the band's self-titled work is well-polished and quite listenable.
Stylistically, Euphoreon blend a number of different melodic death, folk, black, and even power metal elements. Generally speaking this is a very fast-paced album, and anyone objecting to heavy double-bassing or gratuitous blast beats really ought to stick their head in the ground while this is on. I find the speed rather welcoming, naturally, and feel that the band has placed their blast beats rather tastefully unlike a great number of bands that play in this style. The drums rarely interfere with the music and only serve to elevate the compositions as a whole. Similarly, the guitar work is quite good when it comes to blending with the rest of the band's musical elements, and despite the speed and intensity of much of the album, there are a number of soft solos and even a few sections of clean vocals. The timbre of the guitar in a few places is the sort that I absolutely love. Summerville uses a style that is palm-muted and without a great deal of heaviness, but throws out a sharp, percussive tone with tremolo picking that accentuates everything. Some may find this irritating, but I love it. See "Where Dead Skies Dwell", especially during the bridge, for an example of what I mean.
It's not really fair to compare Euphoreon with a number of bands that they resemble. They lack the sheer speed and instrumental virtuosity of Wintersun, the constant sweeping melodies and fierce Viking attitude of Ensiferum, or the commercial accessibility and more aggressive vocal delivery seen with Children of Bodom or Norther. Yet at times, they blend portions of all three groups with more than an amateur hand. These fellows are most obviously talented and capable of taking their pursuits to a high level. The mere fact that they've churned out something like this is a testament to their dedication and song-writing proficiency.
Yet, their debut release is not without it's flaws. My chief complaint is mostly that I find the vocals, both harsh and clean, a bit boring. It is probable that the band could use a dedicated vocalist (Summerville clearly has the guitar bit well in hand). In addition, while this album avoids being repetitive a manner that is commendable, they also tend to go on a little bit at times with the eight tracks that they have written. The lyrics are a bit bleak for me, but for a fair number of death/black fans, this won't be a problem whatsoever.
I give this an open recommendation to fans of anything that I've already mentioned, as well as a good word to fans of melodic death and black metal. It's a crisp breath of air for a genre that (in my opinion) hasn't seen much new this year. Come a few more years, we could see Euphoreon being a real contender in the melodic-death/folk genre if they keep up the momentum that they have built up with this, their eponymous debut.
- - -
The Protagonist's Rating: 3.5 out of 5