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Album Reviews : The Eternal – Kartika

By on November 26, 2008

The Eternal are without a doubt one of Australia’s most prominent bands. Signed to Firebox records in 2003, their previous two albums have shown them as important figures on the doom metal scene. They’ve made us wait three years for their third album, so the question remains, where have the Eternal decided to go now?

You can tell from the first guitar note that they have moved somewhat away from the doom (and gloom) compared to their previous albums. No more ‘one drum beat per minute’ on this album. It’s maintained the darkness, with evil guitar work and Mark Kelson’s dulcet tones, but they’ve picked up the pace – to good effect.

Kartika feels as though it’s got a lot more music on it compared to their previous albums, even though they’re about the same length. There are many great songs on this album, but just like with having children, no matter what you say, there’s always a favourite. It’s not that you don’t love the others very much, but one’s just… better.

‘Blood’ is that child.

This epically epic epic goes for all of nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and not one of those seconds is put to waste. No pretentious intermission (don’t worry, there’s still time to catch your breath at about the six minute mark), just heavy-as-a-really-heavy-thing metal, mixed in with some poetic Opeth-ic acoustics, and one mad as hell shred-up. It would have you skipping to it every time if the rest of the album wasn’t as good as it is. I dare you not to like it!

The second track on the album, ‘Without Reason’, is the ‘Down’ of this album (referring to the emotionally suitable power ballad from  the band’s debut release). A song where, if they were from a slightly more metal country (ie. Norway), it would have huge mainstream potential. A typically simple yet catchy piano intro leads the way into one of the many highlights on the album. Nothing too out there, just a great rock ballad that will do it for you every time.

Track seven shows that these boys from Melbourne have a feminine side, and they’re not afraid to show it – which is a shame really, because this one probably should have been left in the closet. A soppy little piano number, it’s not really that bad a song; it just isn’t that good either. This song is perhaps more a matter of taste than anything else, as other fans have seen this song as a highlight. Regardless of this, have no fear, for they make up for this crisis of masculinity with the fourth highlight of the album, Illuminate.

There’s not much you can say about this song that’s different from the other many great songs on the album. Fast paced, multi-layered, and catchy, this is what makes every Eternal album stand at the head of the field. It’s simple technique, and yet if it was so simple all bands would be able to do it.

Maybe, I shouldn’t have been so critical of the overly emotive track seven, because ‘Walk Beside You’, the ninth track on the album, is wetter than a fisherman’s handkerchief. But there’s an important difference between the two tracks – this one is good. The piano and drums for most of this track sound as if they were recorded in the room next to the one where the recording equipment was, and somehow it works. It gives the track that old silent movie feel, and Kelson’s emotion filled lyrics combine with Russian guest vocalist Emily Saaen for some truly heartfelt moments.

Ultimately, what makes this album what it is is the songwriting. Each song has something memorable which makes listening to Kartika instantly enjoyable the first time you hear it, and complex enough to get better with every listen, with diversity ranging from a Sentenced-esque doom/goth infusion, to emotional rock balladry, to the traditional middle eastern themed soundscape that runs through many of the tracks.

Album of the year (so far). 9.5/10

Band: The Eternal
Album: Kartika
Year: 2008
Genre: Doom/Goth Metal
Label: Firebox Records/Amphead
Origin: Melbourne, Australia

1. Silence
2. Without Reason
3. Lost Our Way
4. Self Inflicted
5. Blood (Reviewers Choice)
6. A Pale Reflection
7. Sunshine
8. Illuminate
9. Walk Beside You
10. Kartika
11. Means For An Ending
12. Brighter Day

Reviewed by Mathew Boelsen