|Release Date||11 October 2019|
|Record Label||Mighty Music|
Symphonic metal is a little pretentious on the best of days, but Ethereal Kingdom are in another realm entirely. Their debut album, the aptly-named Hollow Mirror, is about as hollow as it gets, but it’s pretentious enough to make even a bitchy blonde trust-fund girl seem humble. Seriously. The band’s whole schtick rides on the back of juxtaposing tranquil lows with dissonant highs as if it’s a revolutionary idea (which, if you’ve ever listened to symphonic or gothic metal, you’d know it isn’t).
To be clear, though, it’s not this dark/light idea that is responsible for Hollow Mirror‘s downfall. No; it’s far, far more than that. The culprit here is, well, damn-near everything. The execution is bad, the songwriting is bad, the melodies are crap, and the vocals are in their own, keyless world.
But, before I tear this poor album to shreds, I’d better get the good stuff out in the open. The drums are actually pretty good to the point where they far out-perform every other aspect of the album combined. They craft some solid grooves and vicious blast beats but they also manage to keep everything more-or-less tied together, despite some awkwardly structured songs and messy backing keyboards. Additionally, the rhythm guitars, while very straightforward, aren’t bad at all.
But, yeah. That’s it. Think the album’s hopeless now? Well, until you hear it, you’ll have no fucking clue just how hopeless it is. It’s almost as if Ethereal Kingdoms intentionally tried to make a shitty album. All you have to do is listen to one of the many passages with rough vocals and this becomes ever clearer. Courtesy of the band’s vocalist Sofia Schmidt, they sound like they were sung by someone who was trying to make fun of screamo, and that’s putting it nicely. But the vocals don’t stop there; Miss Schmidt also sings the finest out-of-tune soprano I’ve heard in a while, in a manner so boringly that it’s almost impressive. It also doesn’t help that the vocal lines are written like crap to begin with.
Aside from awkward, jagged, uninspired songs (especially ‘Endings’ and ‘Apparition’. Jesus Christ.) and an awful lead, the album has two more crucial pitfalls. The first is the incredibly dissonant violin (which I think might actually be fucking intentional, for whatever reason) which I’m convinced is played by a seven year old. The second comes in the form of spoken sections in most of the songs which try to tell some sort of story. Although, even after numerous listens, I have no idea what that story is because I spent equal amounts of time laughing and cringing while listening to it.
Needless to say, I don’t recommend Hollow Haze. That is, unless you’re looking for some scarily-bad music to play at your Halloween party, in which case it’s exactly what you need! All jokes aside, Ethereal Kingdoms have entered the metal world on such a low note that, if they decide to actually pursue a second album, they have nowhere to go but up.
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