Review: Ellipse

Ellipse L’Ampleur du Vide

ellipseI’ve taken a lot longer writing this review than I otherwise might have. Which is not to say that I’ve devoted a particularly great degree of thought or craft to its actual composition. And certainly not that, as you can see, that I’ve actually written a huge amount about it. It was more a matter of it sounding like something else, something in particular, and not being able to remember exactly what that something was. This precipitated a search through my collection of Gothenburg deathmetal releases, which is pretty extensive. My search was ultimately crowned with success although, as will become clear below, the fruits of such success were not really consonant with the amount of time that devoted to the search.

Anyway, what the hell, you may ask, am I talking about? I’m talking about a little six song release by a band from Nantes called Ellipse. As you’ve probably gathered from the statements above, the general stylistic territory explored by Ellipse is the Gothenburg style of deathmetal. Since its origins in the early 1990s, this particular medium of expression has been quite thoroughly explored and it is arguable that a lot of the creative spirit has been drained out of it. This is at least the case if one takes the fact that Evergrey, a band shorn of any guts or substance, are still able to sell records. Even excepting the deficient entries in the field, it must be said that this is a wide, although still fertile, stylistic zone.

Those daring to enter such a crowded field undertake a risky endeavor. It is all too easy to become yet another nameless practitioner in an overloaded style. Ellipse, it must be said, have a few things going for them. They have rock solid musicianship, which is an absolute must for this particular line. They have a female vocalist (and quite a good one at that) and this immediately separates them from the deathmetal pack. Their lyrics are in French, which I regard as a major plus. As a native speaker of English, I have the luxury that most bands sort of concede to the hegemony of my mother tongue. I understand why they do it, but it is refreshing to hear a band that doesn’t. Too few English speakers take the time to learn another language, and merely assume that the world’s culture will make the effort to come to them. For a number of reasons this expectation is justified, but it is pleasant to see people resist the temptation.

If you only listened to the first thirty seconds of this disc, you would assume that they were going to sound like Katatonia in the Discouraged Ones era (which is no bad thing). They then move on to hit a range of stylistic points within the subgenre, sounding now like Dark Tranquility, now like Carnal Forge, now like later period Nightrage. The similarity to the last mentioned act is pronounced, and I am rather ashamed to say that it took me upwards of an hour to identify the similarity.

The fact that Ellipse sound like a lot of other bands is not by any means a criticism. Such is the nature of this particular format that it is unavoidable. In L’Ampleur du Vide they have put together quite an appealing release. Their take on the style as fast and aggressive with a compelling melodic element that keeps one interested. And this is, as far as I am concerned, a major achievement. If you’ve been following the deathmetal scene for any length of time, you’ve heard this kind of thing before. To hear it done in a ways that makes you want to hear it again is a rare and excellent experience.

This live clip gives a pretty good idea of what they’re all about.


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