Album Review: Ebonivory - 'The Long Dream I'

27 June 2020 | 5:02 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The future of Australian prog-metal.

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[Since this review was published, various unpleasant things have come out about Ebonivory singer, Charlie Powlett , with all other band members quitting and their label dropping them. This review will be left up as is for posterity, but Owen, myself, and the rest of KYS do not support any kind of abusive behaviour. We won't be covering Ebonivory moving forward. -Alex.]

As someone who has been associated with the Melbourne music scene for ten years now, I’m always wanting more. The bands that come out of the city and surrounding Victoria region are, more often than not, world class and there’s always that one band that will stand out from the rest that have stayed playing the same old sound. Ebonivory are that band. A band that I always heard about but haven’t had the chance to take photos of or see live, which will need to change once shows start happening again.

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The Ballarat lads are back with second album, 'The Long Dream I' - a record that's been long time coming, and a mighty follow up to 2015's 'The Only Constant.' This is a release that was thrust upon me to review, and boy, I am so glad it was. (Thanks Alex!) The first album of a two-part concept about scattered memories, re-living your youth through the lens of lessons learned and words unsaid, it's attention-grabbing from the moment of impact. With a two-minute intro track, aptly named 'Introduction,' blasting into your ears and perfectly setting up what the next 59 minutes and 59 seconds will be. It's a highlight reel of heavy, chugging and displaced rhythms, gliding into a beautifully orchestrated piano melody that is then musically interrupted by a soaring guitar solo, we then slowly descend and transition into 'Hammer Street,' a song that I couldn’t see anywhere else but at the top of the album.

The serene guitar loop at the start of 'Hammer Street' slowly gets bolstered by drummer Dave Parkes’ running around his kit before the song kicks into high gear with a melodic yet heavy riff that's instantly catchy. The final piece to the Ebonivory puzzle is added when vocalist Charlie Powlett comes in all guns blazing at the top of his range. I won’t lie, this album is my first time hearing Ebonivory, but this is a perfect introduction, especially once Powlett’s powerful and unique voice hits. Hearing a progressive band with clean vocals like this is that something new I’ve yearned for from new music recently.

The well balanced tone and overall warmth to Powlett’s voice is the perfect contrast to his abrasive and harsh screamed vocals, that are perfectly placed in the songs that they are used in, like the album’s second track 'Persist' - originally released back in 2018. The call and response between the clean and screamed vocals in the verses is well done, creating a somewhat conversational style of vocal. 'Persist' also features one of the most seamless transitions from verse to chorus that I’ve heard in a while. That chorus also confidently shows off the Australian groups ability to switch styles, with a very up-tempo, melodic chorus, similar to those absolute banger post-hardcore choruses circa 2009-2011.

'Patting The Black Dog' and 'Cats' are the perfect one-two punch of contrast and polar opposites that are a great part of what makes this album so damn good. 'Patting The Black Dog' is a great way to round out the first three full-length songs on the album, giving you another stellar showing of challenging rhythmic patterns and not-so-standard time signatures, mixed in with my favourite song writing technique, stripped back first verses and massive choruses. Sliding in at track five is the first step into ballad territory, with 'Cats' coming in with beautifully structured soundscape of floating guitars, full and flowing bass guitar lines and orchestral cymbals rolls that accompany Powlett's passionate singing. 'Cats' explores his clean vocal range, with him showcasing how clean his low, middle, high and falsetto tones are as he accurately transitions between them.

Similarly, the use of symphonic samples across  this whole album helps add that extra small layer to each song that pushes them to the next level. It’s almost like the band have given listeners a challenge to try and dig deeper into each and every piece, strip-mining out what layer of music they enjoy in these compositions. For me, most of the time, it was every layer.

Following that, the record kicks back into high speed with the high-energy of 'A Colour I’m Blind To,' another great display of Ebonivory’s ability to experiment with ever-changing tempo and timbre, before bringing it right back down with the double up of 'Sea Sons' and 'In Reverie,' the half time break of the LP. Two perfectly produced centre pieces that are well-placed in the album to prepare you for a crushing second half, as shown in the final  minute of 'In Reverie' where the heavy chugs seamlessly re-enter the fold; along with a gravelly, half-sung half-screamed vocal performance proving once more how musically diverse this group can be. The flow of this album is also something that peaked my attention right away, as shown in the transition from 'In Reverie' to 'Window Man' with the looped guitar carrying over before another punishing groove hits your ears for six. (Even beyond this record, the final swell 'Heat Death Of The Universe' from their last EP, 2016's 'Ebonivory II,' is seemingly meant to flow into 'Introduction' for this record. Which is crazy! That's playing the long game.)

As we now start to come to a close, 'Explosions After Dark' literally explodes into view with a very dark take on what we’ve heard in the nine previous songs, with an ominous-sounding vocal, singing the same rhythmic pattern as the instrumental members, before kicking into a crushing wall of sound that continues on for the rest of the piece. It's bloody huge! That vibe continues right on over to 'Tales Of Termina,' with all the combinations of snare drum ghost-notes, djenty riffs, rumbling bass lines and layered screams and singing that sound like a prog fans wet dream.

As we hit the last two tracks, we need to take a seat and get ready for the near 9 minute epic, 'The Bluegums.' With progressive bands, a song this length isn’t uncommon and is used to tell a story, showing you everything the band can do. Ebonivory do that in spades here. Guitarists Jake Ewings and Louis Edwards give you everything they have: incredibly crafted lead breaks and solos hidden all over, with great counter melodies complimenting each other throughout this joyous nine-minutes. For me, this is a standout performance from the whole band with Powlett further proving his vocal capabilities, but Parkes on the drums is all over the kit with fluent fills and driving floor tom beats that give the middle-section such a massive, well-rounded sound. The imagery created through the samples and soundscapes in 'The Bluegums' really does take you on a journey with the dual piano and guitar leads, with driving percussion over the top in that middle-eight, leading you to a slow, fading finish.

'Introvection' closes out 'The Long Dream I, and the boys aren’t holding back! Packing a brutal punch with a punishing intro riff that is topped off with swelling guitar sweeps, before the remaining six-minutes slams you all around the ring with an onslaught of rhythmic displacement, gritty vocals, a mind-melting guitar shred. It's a flawless combination of all of the musical elements we’ve heard and explored in the previous 12 tracks that are what makes this closing track oh so good. It sounds and feels like the end; a fitting cap-off. Something that not enough bands put stock into when laying out their albums.

As I mentioned earlier, Ebonivory are one of those bands that I’d heard the name of but had never taken that plunge and listened to. So take this review as advice. For that is a mistake that I have rectified by going back and listening to their past releases in thanks to this near-perfect progressive metal epic, crafted by a band with skill far beyond their young years. 'The Long Dream I' will gift this rising Aussie act with new fans, more than please older fans who are already in the know, and will also start to elevate Ebonivory into that top-tier of progressive metal bands on an international level. If anything else, they are no doubt a big, bright part of the future of progressive rock and metal in Australia.

01. Introduction

02. Hanmer Street

03. Persist

04. Patting the Black Dog

05. Cats

06. A Colour I’m Blind To

07. Sea Sons

08. In Reverie

09. Window Man

10. Explosions After Dark

11. Tales of Termina

12. The Bluegums

13. Introvection

'The Long Dream I' is out now: