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“How far can one stretch music’s sensibilities?” asks the modern composer. Thus is the defining question in the never ending battle against classical standardization. Is it possible to create something musical whilst completely redefining performance and approach? The past century has shown moderate to severe progression, be it the minimal beauty of Arvo Part’s spacious ambiance or Iannis Xenakis’s violent, pictorial abandon. As time progresses, the needs for expressing emotion becomes more complex, and the composer pans to a wider scope.

In the context of metal, though a young genre, there are already obvious factions. One can immediately discern black metal from death metal, power metal from grindcore, et cetera. I’d referenced conservatism in black metal in my last premiere, but, in a wider scope, metal itself is . . . pretty conservative and easily categorized as such.

Ehnahre has always stood alone. Even with their much more tame, but still far-reaching The Man Closing Up the constantly changing cast surrounding bassist/vocalist Ryan McGuire and multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Donoso (seen here on drums, electronics, and piano) have been a direct challenge to metal’s segmented stagnation.

Continuing the avant-garde/modern classical approach cemented in their previous three full-lengths, the 90-minute beast Douve is a searing whirlwind of music theory textbooks and razor blades. One of this intimidating block of sound’s most consistently metallic moments, the oppressive “I See You Disappearing” is metal at its loosest. One might remember Chaos Echoes’s flirtations with improvisation and loose structuring on last year’s Transient, and yet Ehnahre’s “ebb and flow” approach is all the more intimidating. Ehnahre’s impenetrability throughout Douve reaches an apex in this track, and repeated listens still leave me bewildered. Welcome to 2016, metal.

Douve will see an official CD and digital release via Ehnahre drummer/multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Donoso’s Kathexis label on January 22.

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—Jon Rosenthal

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