Cheerful is not the first word that springs to mind listening to Ilathar! This one-man project was created in 2018 in Lower Austria, with the initial goal being to act as a side project for Arstaern-Ilathar (I think Arstaern is his first name), creating his own take on old folk songs while also working in a metal band. When Ilathar’s band broke up at the end of summer 2019, this solo project became his main musical focus, with an expanded musical style to include heavier electrical guitar riffs. A Vessel Of Echoes was developed, created and then released in December 2019, with all instruments except drums being recorded in Ilathar’s home studio, together with mixing and mastering.
The EP style is described as is black metal, although over half of the eight tracks are surprisingly sensitive, tuneful, gentle almost. Stylistically, Ilather has similar characteristics to recent prog-metal and post-metal releases such as A Day In Venice and Dawnwalker; they all share a high degree of melody and quiet reflection counter-balanced with heavy-duty riffs, although I have to say Ilathar is more doomy and depressive, and less engaging than either of the above. Having said that, its not at all thrash, there’s a lot of very tasteful acoustic work with a lovely clean sound. For me the problem is that its a bit one-paced, accentuated by a lack of vocals other than where black metal screams are occasionally used as a gravelly, distorted instrument.
Cairns is quite a long track as an opener, building slowly before fuzzed riffs flow in. It’s very organic and feels like the mainstay composition around which the rest of the album might have been created. Hoarfrost continues in similar vein. Secret Passage is next, incredibly gentle and melodic in comparison, its almost soporific and oddly, hauntingly, attractive. To The Spirit Sphere is similar. Mysticism Of The Death is quite poor by comparison, it feels like a re-run of Cairns / Hoarfrost. The Abyss In Me and Dreams Of Light And Shadow sign off the album in more melodic style.
This is an odd album, there’s no two ways about it. And it’s certainly not flawless, it’s fairly doom-laden and there’s basically not enough variation of pace or rhythm for prolonged listening – and like many (essentially) instrumental albums, for me it’s ultimately quite limited. And yet I do find myself strangely drawn to the softer compositions on here, there’s some lovely, clean, melodic guitar lines in here. This is not to everyone’s taste but it definitely has some intangible attraction!