For 25 years, Evoken has been known for their ability to summon mournful emotions through music. The blend of funeral sounds with hints of death metal has placed them as one of the most sought out doom bands in the US. Evoken has stayed true to a slow and heavy style over the years. However, with each release, they add a new element and try to take a different approach to keep things interesting. Hypnagogia is no different. This time around the band delivers their first attempt at a concept album.
Hypnagogia tells the story of a soldier fighting in World War l. Drummer Vince Verkay provides moving prose in his written introduction, telling the story in a way that brings the music to life for the listener. The album begins with a haunting synthesized intro to the track “The Fear After.” The chilling atmosphere from the keys sets the mood for the remainder of the album. The track then transitions into the band’s trademark doom offerings. Heavy guitar tones are churned out in a traditional style that are slow and methodical. Thunderous drums help to round out the sound without overpowering the mix. The track holds your attention as vocalist and guitarist John Paradiso transforms his bone-rattling growls into evocative whispers that echo behind beautiful piano melodies. Violin arrangements that provoke sorrowful emotions, stir the listeners heart. The album plows forward with tracks “Valorous Consternation” and “Schadenfreude.” From moments of peaceful relaxation to anguish and depression, Hypnagogia takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster.
For me, the detail in each song structure sets Hypnagogia apart from prior albums in the Evoken discography. This album puts everything that you love about previous Evoken records, or funeral doom in general, and delivers on a grand scale. The contrast of violin and piano melodies are countered with passionate screams and heavy rhythms throughout. The title track “Hypnagogia,” as well as the “Hypnopompic,” are shorter, instrumental offerings that are thought-provoking due to the diversity of the instrumentation. “Ceremonial Bleeding,” brings back a mix of aggression and experimental, clean vocal chants. The album closes out with the ten minute, epic track, “The Weald Of Perished Men.” This was a perfect closer for the album and one of my favorites from the release.
True masters of their art, Evoken have proved yet again, that they are among the leaders of doom. There are few bands that are capable of delivering such emotion with their music. Doom metal has the stereotype of being boring and repetitive. That will never be a problem for these legends. Consisting of eight tracks of unique and diverse offerings, Hypnagogia has something for everyone, and is one of the best Evoken offerings to date.
– Corey Smith