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E-an-na - Alveolar review

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Band: E-an-na
Album: Alveolar
Release date: March 2023

01. Mioritic Metal
02. Doi
03. Călăuză
04. O, Romaniţa
05. Ies
06. 'Colo 'mbia
07. Fagure Negru
08. Biba
09. Dulce
10. Trecătoare
11. Suit în Nor
12. Fântânile De La Capătul Lumii
13. Cenuşiu
14. Floare De Fier

Radu has kindly done me the service of paving the way for this review, and I’ve made it my business (because Radu has made it my business) to review almost everything that E-an-na has released thus far – an eclectic batch of recordings, no doubt, all with their own merits. Alveolar is only their second full-length album, however, which seems to suggest another more substantial milestone.

And perhaps it is, if we see the last couple of EPs as allowing a venue E-an-na to indulge themselves in a few selcouth stylistic fascinations. The band has discovered that themed EPs can do a lot of work in filling tangential space, so, having explored divergent pursuits like tango, electronica, and manele with requisite care, they can incorporate those elements into each other and into their existing folk metal base with more proportionate restraint (if that’s the right word for those styles). Letting off that steam seems to have benefited the band: the one real criticism I had of Nesfârşite was that it was a lot to take in: over an hour of music, all of it quite varied, and often without much transition from track to track. Well, I suppose I can’t blame E-an-na for writing so many songs that are interesting in so many different ways, and each time I return to Nesfârşite it proves more listenable than I remembered – but Alveolar bypasses that progressive realization almost entirely, justifying its format in one graceful motion.

Alveolar isn’t as long an album, for starters, and its numerous elements feel better woven together in spite of the persistent variation. E-an-na have been fortunate enough to increase their stock in production: “Ies,” as an example, has more depth and volume than I imagine a similar arrangement would have on Nesfârşite; the stuttering step and piano/brass/vocal mixture fluidly fade in for a chaotic chorus and out for sensual jazz club temperance, demonstrating a recently honed adaptability in addition to a tighter sound. The band’s musical cohesion has improved, with more sophisticated vocal arrangements within reach and a strong emphasis on rhythms, which come from the folk side but attach themselves with great ease to dance-oriented modernism and percussive metal. It defies logic, given that most of the songs on this album were actually parceled out as singles over a period of several years, but somehow Alveolar maintains a seamless flow that weaves back and forth between registers of heaviness, tempo, and mood.

This album actually eschews metal in many places, with the folk aspects emphasized through the rapid percussion and endless outpourings of energy rather than outright force much of the time. Heavy metal is more of a periodic elaboration than a stable undercurrent, resulting in a more atmospheric and lower-key experience than E-an-na’s previous releases, more of a dancey folk rock or somber neofolk ballad album than a straight-up folk metal album. Alveolar restrains its extremities to tasteful additions, contrasting starkly with the highly aggressive riffing, breakdowns, and screaming that buttressed many of Nesfârşite’s compositions. Even the deathcore-influenced “Trecătoare” opens with the flute forward, and the little guitar and vocal affectations that fill the space between chugs coax a melancholic character out of its bulldozing that I find particularly interesting as an application for breakdowns. Now, there are still plenty of slamming riffs and ragged screams to be found throughout – this is not pure neofolk by any means – but I’m beginning to hear a more creative synthesis than what your typical folk metal band puts together.

The most blatant concessions to metal coalesce around the beginning and, more particularly, the end of the album, as if in a gradual crescendo, and again in this progression I feel not only a conscious movement across the entire album that I felt was missing from Nesfârşite, but some wonder as to how this could have been constructed piecemeal over such a long period of time and whether there was ever a master plan behind the album’s evolution. The standout elements of this album are not so much the forthright metallic explosions – which, I admit, I still suspect peaked on Jiana – but the trippy, synthpoppy “Fagure Negru,” the haunting acoustic lament “Dulce,” the touches of spacey electronics that surface throughout, and the undimmed density of the instrumental runs shoring up every second of sound on “‘colo ‘mbia,” “Ies,” and all the up-tempo tracks. I also like that Roxana Amarandi has fully become the co-lead vocalist of the band – her voice adapts well to harsh and soft tunes, be it the heartily partying shouts of “Doi,” the gauzy lightness of “Fagure Negru,” or the touches of class on “Suit în Nor.” The contrast she provides to Andrei Oltean’s harsh vocals continues to remind me of Eluveitie, but E-an-na have definitely pulled into their own bracket of personality over these few years.

In seven years I’ve reviewed five E-an-na releases, and the reason I haven’t gotten fatigued by now is that Radu would have me whacked each time they’ve had something new on offer that I found consistently intriguing. Even if Alveolar is sort of a compilation, at least in part, it still feels like a more focused work than Nesfârşite, whose own virtures I’ve still come to explore more fully in revisiting it; there is enough variety and enough inherent strength in each of E-an-na’s releases that you could rotate through favorites on a constant basis, and I have a feeling that it will take many more reviews before I can tell where Alveolar sits relative to the rest of their oeuvre (which I also hope to see continue expanding in that time). What I can tell you is that it will undoubtedly be making my shortlist for the end of 2023, and I hope to keep a slot open in the next Metal Storm Awards for it.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 8

Written on 28.03.2023 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 57 users
28.03.2023 - 08:17
In retrospect Nesfârșite didn't stick as much to memory as I would've hoped for, but this one is already up there even if I didn't keep up much with the advance singles. So I guess you definitely are right about this being more focused.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?

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