Review: “The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail” by Ether Coven

Born from lengthy conversations on the road about New Orleans Sludge Metal bands, Ether Coven became an outlet for brooding riffs and frayed emotions that has steadily evolved over the past seven years and three albums. Their fourth, “The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail” finds vocalist and guitarist Peter Kowlasky joined by his Remembering Never bandmate Devin Estep (guitar and vocals), alongside Justin Gianoutsos (drums) and Shane Nerenberg (bass), a record written during Kowlasky’s on-going battle with colon cancer and was produced by Andy Nelson at Bricktop Studios (The Devil Wears Prada, 156/Silence, Weekend Nachos) and featuring a myriad of guests…

…The searing heat of intensity begins with “Psalm of Cancer“, a dark and brooding cut that combines huge Metallic Hardcore breakdowns with Death Metal blast beat bursts as it surges with blistering energy while at the same time exposing the vulnerability of the mental state of Kowlasky as he battles for his very life. The weight and gravity of the situation conveyed through not only the lyrical narrative but also the vocal performance itself is as raw and visceral as they come so when combined with the energy of the music they make for a brutal introduction. Slowing things down a notch “Afraid & Suffering” adds an almost ambient Post-Hardcore feel after an initial wave of Doom fuelled Sludge Metal as boundaries are pushed outwards and a sense of melancholia builds. The sheer power of the experience driven by the raw emotion of the hopelessness expressed in the lyrics stirs the very soul, a depiction of how fragile we are as beings and how much we take for granted, the clean vocal moments in the final third adding a brief moment of respite from the throat grating uncleans while at the same time enhancing the feeling of inescapable desperation. Sinister and menacing “God Hates Flags” has Gianoutsos creating some almost tribal drum fills to contrast the savage down-tuned riffs as this freight train gathers momentum and threatens to leave the tracks with swaths of feedback and pinch harmonic moments that echo the sentiment of Converge as does the punishing Hardcore of “Of Might & Failure“.

The second half of the record begins with “The Warmth Of Your Bathwater” a cut soaked in a Gothic croon from Kowalsky to accompany Doom fuelled Post-Hardcore riffs and provide a dull ache with the melodies that at times has an almost shoegazing quality. That builds back into the Earth shattering side of the bands music in the second half of the near thirteen minute magnum opus, the abrasions swirling into the melodies and shrouding them with darkness to create something epic. A palate cleanser is required to offer breathing space and “Temple of Wu” provides that offering an instrumental that outshines most with weighty atmosphere. The grand finale is saved for the cut with the longest title,  “Consequence Of Self (Let the Nails Carve Our Names In Rust)” another piece of epic proportions that defies some of the noise of the earlier half of the record with something more majestic. This maybe a fourth album from Ether Coven, but it almost feels like a fresh start for them with a wider breadth of sound that reaches parts of the inter cortex of the brain that before they didn’t touch with incredible atmospherics. Lyrically for obvious reasons anger and despair have replaced the misery and dread of their earlier records and with all those elements combined it makes for a captivating, at times punishing listen as the group reach new heights. Its hard not to get carried away by the tsunami of raw emotion that this one stirs up… [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Psalm of Cancer (ft. Dwid Hellion of Integrity, Anthony Crupi of Pain Ritual)
2. Afraid & Suffering (feat. Dan Weyandt of Zao)
3. God Hates Flags (feat. Tarek Ahmed of Intercourse, Anthony Crupi of Pain Ritual)
4. Of Might & Failure (feat. Shane Post of Bird of Ill Omen)
5. The Warmth of Your Bathwater (feat. Anthony Crupi of Pain Ritual)
6. Temple of Wu (Instrumental)
7. Consequences of Self (Let the Nails Carve Our Names in Rust) (ft. Howard Jones of Blood Has Been Shed, Light The Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage)

The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail” by Ether Coven is out 5th August 2022 via Good Fight Music

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