Ekstasis – “The Adversary” (Song Premiere)
Covering neofolk on a primarily “metal-based” website is difficult. On the one hand, neofolk is, inherently, not metal, which leads to general questioning as to why one would see a band like Ekstasis on Invisible Oranges. On the other hand, neofolk and metal have had, at least since the early ’90s, a richly intertwined history and symbiotic relationship. The dulcet tones of Ulver’s Kveldssanger are the centerpiece of the multi-genre-defying Trilogie. October Falls and Svarrogh either made the jump from neofolk to black metal, or, in the case of the latter, vice versa. Blood Axis mainman Michael Moynihan wrote the controversial Lords of Chaos retelling of the second wave Norwegian chaos (which I personally take issue with, but that is neither here nor there). The list goes on, but you see the point I’m making here – the nourishing, formative roots underground are gnarled and erratic; they do not tell the same story of the tree above.
Cascadian folk troupe Ekstasis’s roots are rich in the Pacific Northwest’s more recent musical history, but their lyrical, romantic brand of lushly orchestrated music belies intertwined pasts like Ulver’s or Empyrium’s. Boasting members of Fauna, Skagos, Alda, Threnos, Vradiazei (who might not be a black metal band but exhibits a similar intensity), Eigenlicht, and more, Ekstasis are no strangers to the more extreme end of the metal spectrum, but practice the time-honored exercise of melody-based, quiet folk escapism. Now on their second album, The Adversary, the band eschews the long-form, rhythmic style found on last year’s The Book Of Longing double album and find solace in brief, densely composed odes to love and nature.
Opening with a solitary guitar arpeggio, album opener and title track “The Adversary” slowly blooms into full form, utilizing all elements in beautiful, pastoral polyphony. Ray Hawes and Johnny DeLacy’s guitars intertwine with Mae Kessler and Marit Schmidt’s elegant bowed strings and Mara Winter’s delicate woodwinds with spacious grace and carefully placed compositional care. Even as Michael Korchonnoff handles vocal duties, all elements remain intact as a sort of continuo, using slight improvisation over the set progression to enhance the composed melody. With so many elements, the guitar duo, the strings and woodwinds, overcomposing, or what I like to call “business,” becomes an issue, but not here; every note has its place and each member’s territory has been set without threat of encroaching. Now, I’ve been referencing “neofolk” a lot, and, while I would probably end up using neofolk as a blanket term for Ekstasis, their verdant, uplifting sound echoes artists from the ’70s – the guitar heroism of Dave Bixby and Bob Desper, the traditionalism of Steeleye Span, and the lyricism of Pentangle – than the apocalyptic sounds found within the canonical Death in June and Current 93. Regardless of category, the beauty found within Ekstasis’s infectious music (I haven’t been able to listen through just once in a single sitting) is undeniable and speaks to the now strange historic accuracy of their sonically unlikely beginnings.
The Adversary will see a CD and digital release via Chinese ethereal music label Pest Productions on June 30, with preorders and digital release opening on June 24. See below for an exclusive first listen of opening track “The Adversary.”
From the band:
“Much of this record was written on the road or in states of transition and we are infinitely grateful to the people who have hosted and believed in us. We are slowly weaving a new family and this music is a manifestation of our gratitude and connection”
-Johnny DeLacy, Ekstasis
Ekstasis will be embarking on their first European tour next month – note there are a few dates which are still “up in the air.” If you are able to help the band, reach out to them via their Bandcamp page:
7/9: Tera Salvaria festival, northern Italy
7/11: Zurich CH @ Kernstrasse 14 *With Waul of the Weald
7/12: Bern CH @ Workshophus *With Waul of the Weald
7/14: Geneva CH @ Urgence Disc Records
7/15: Clermont Ferrand FR @ Raymond Bar
7/17: Paris FR *With Nebelung
7/18: Paris FR *With Nebelung
7/19: Liege BE @ le Hangar *With Nebelung
7/21: Bonn DE @ Grillplatz der Waldfreunde Duisdorf *With Nebelung
7/23: KIing festival Mansbach DE
7/24: Hamburg DE
7/26: Berlin DE
7/27: Leipzig DE @ KE28 Garden
7/28: Prague CZ
7/29: Brno CZ
7/30: Vienna AT
8/1: Koper Slovenia @ Inde
8:2: Venice IT
Edited to reflect Michael Korchonnoff singing on this song, as opposed to the previously reported Johnny DeLacy.