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[13th May 2013]

[Mascot Records]

01. This Aching Isolation
02. Hz
03. Non Sum Qualis Eram
04. Distances
05. Inversions
06. Creatio Ex Nihilio
07. In Times of Silence
08. For Your Glory, Great Deceiver
09. Nisi Credideritis, Non Intelligetis
10. The Motives of the Machine
11. Singularities
12. Loves
13. The Fire Around the Lotus (Remastered)

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the word “Enochian” was coined in the sixteenth century as the name for the language of angels. Of course, by any logical measure, this is fictional hogwash – but taking it with a pinch of poetic licence, and a listen to the re-released second album Life…And All It Entails, it’s difficult to think of a more appropriate moniker for Portsmouth’s Enochian Theory.

Life…And All It Entails was originally released in 2012, and has been reissued to capitalise on the recent exposure the band has received from, among other things, supporting Tesseract on their latest UK tour. So it’s probably unsurprising that the band hail from broadly the same cerebral, contemplative quadrant of the progniverse as Acle Kahney and his chums.

Let’s be clear about this though. Enochian Theory are far from being a Tesseract clone. If anything, they are a step or two further away from being a progressive-metal band. If Altered State has a prog-to-metal ratio of 60-40, then Life… is more like 80-20.

Opening track “This Aching Isolation” gradually builds into a crescendo, beautifully (in every sense) showcasing the sumptuous additional instrumentation, enigmatically credited to The Lost Orchestra. The effect is a song that doesn’t so much demand to be listened to, but warmly envelops the listener in rich swells of sound. It is this natural-sounding orchestration that characterises the album, and sets it apart from its peers.

It is pleasing to hear orchestration that is rich, but also sympathetic to the song and not completely overpowering. Outside of  The Ocean, who are masters of this particular craft, this is probably the most effective deployment of the orchestra-in-a-box since Xerath‘s II.

This is a quiet, considered album. One has to wait for fifth track “Inversions” for anything approaching a ‘chug’ from the guitars. When eighth track “For Your Glory, Great Deceiver” lets fly some ‘proper’ metal growling, it is a genuine surprise. It’s not clear from the information available who provides the multiple vocal lines evident, but if one of them isn’t Devin Townsend, then whoever it is can do a bloody good impression of him.

Whilst the richness of the sound is a definite plus, it is also something of a victim of its own success. Like a big creamy cake, it can be a bit much to take in all in one sitting. The album feels maybe a track or two too long, even excluding “The Fire Around The Lotus”, a remastered track from their debut that closes it off.  But then again, brevity and prog rarely go hand-in-hand.

There is one other slightly troubling thing. “The Motives of the Machine” is an instrumental with some lengthy samples of notable speeches, the first is a laudable one from activist Gloria Steinem and the second is from Alfred Einstein. No problems there. But the third is from George HW Bush‘s 1992 State of the Union and refers to the end of the cold war. The original quote is ‘Communism died this year‘ but, somewhat mischievously, the band have doctored this so we hear ‘Peace died this year‘.

This troubled me enough to actually ask the band about it, and they freely admit this is what they have done. They have added an interesting twist in that the specific ‘Peace’ they dropped into the quote is from a speech made by George W Bush.

Obviously, an album review is no place for a lengthy discourse into geopolitics, so I will spare you all that for now – but I would be happy to expand in the comments, should anyone be interested in having that debate, the band included. So I will just say for now that I’m generally uncomfortable with manipulating recognisable quotes to radically alter their meaning, but nevertheless I can see the artistic merit in what they have done in this specific instance.

And, most importantly, that little episode has made me actually think about stuff, and whether I agree or disagree with the specifics, that can only be a good thing. Genuinely thought-provoking music is all too rare, and should be cherished.

Life…. is a collection of intelligent, delicate, almost vulnerable songs warmly swaddled in lush, organic arrangements that are well worth exploring. With the band now turning their attentions to album number three, we can only hope that they ultimately garner enough attention to make playing these tunes with a real orchestra, instead of a Lost one, a viable proposition.


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