The old adage about "it's the notes you don't play" is, admittedly, often just a lazy crutch for hand-waving away technical skill in favor of pentatonic scales with sweet bends, but it holds some truth: even in funeral doom, a genre constructed around the idea of playing very few notes, creating the requisite mix of agonizing delicacy and excoriating volume takes a certain talent for suspense and self-discipline. Ember Sun's debut album On Earth and Heaven shows the telltale marks of such an inclination: a tense mixture of explorative noise and powerful funeral doom, daunting chasms and dizzying elevations meant to stoke hope and then crush it with doubt. Within the despair is beauty, though: gothic-tinged vocals full of breath and vigor declare last rites, accompanied by swirling strings and synths that somewhat dull the sting of biting riffs. Listen to the full album below ahead of its Friday release:

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On Earth and Heaven conceptually explores the idea of death and our fear of it, and musically it strives to set up a contrast between celestial beauty and the choking horror of coffin dirt. Clean vocals (including mysterious backing vocalization), intricate synthesizer melodies, and a clear ear for harmony set up a sonorous, enveloping atmosphere that's beautiful, if a little tragic, and also notably at odds with a lot of the rest of the album. "Respawn" takes the synthesizers and vocals in a darker, more ominous direction, while "The Chapel" eschews basically everything in favor of a foreboding soundscape to set up the closing track "My Essence Fades in Time," which draws all these elements together into a final ten-minute venture.

Nestled mid-album, "Ember Heart of Me" might be my favorite track, ramping up into double-bass tempos and also doubling down on the harmonies and intricate guitar work. That's not to say that the slower and doomier tracks around it fall short somehow: rather, Ember Sun, skilled architects in exploiting the near-limitless range of the genre, use the consistent gloom and plodding tempos elsewhere to emphasize this escalation. As it happens, sometimes it's the notes you do play.

From the band:

'On Earth and Heaven' is an inner self journey to the uncertainty. A journey where no one knows where the final destination leads to, but the path is known to all. Oblivion, nonexistence or immortality?
The path we choose marks the final destination.

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On Heaven and Earth releases October 22nd via Code666.