Ebonivory – ‘The Long Dream I’

By Fiachra Johnston

With their first full-length release ‘The Only Constant’, Ebonivory made a very clear statement to Australian heavy music fans that they were able to hang with even the biggest names in the scene, and it was hard not to believe them. The record wore its varied multitude of influences on its sleeve but it never failed to create an interesting and diverse soundscape with tight blends of prog and metalcore. Five years on, and frontman Charlie Powlett and the boys from Ballarat have returned to remind us why they’ve been so highly regarded with ‘The Long Dream I’. With five years of experience added to an already unique style, you’ll be hard pressed not to believe them on this record.

On the surface, there’s a lot to enjoy here right from the get go. The rather bombastic ‘Introduction’ leading into ‘Hanmer Street’ is a strong reminder of (or introduction to) just what the five are capable of, demonstrating a proficient range in vocals from Charlie, as well as fantastically complex guitar lines from Jake Ewings and Louis Edwards that can switch from airy melodic rock to syncopated, almost math-like power metal at breakneck pace. ‘Persist’, a 2000’s pastiche that mixes those more technical guitar lines with what feels like old school pop punk, also showcases the equally talented drumming of Dave Parkes, whose influence is really felt throughout the record. In contrast, the light, hopping rhythm of ‘Patting The Black Dog’ belies a darker tone shown off through vocals and the sudden heaviness of the bass work of Connor McMillan. The opening third does feel a little safe at times, nothing inordinately out of their comfort zone, but for those just joining them, it will be a confident introduction to the group

Yet, as is Ebonivory’s hallmark, much of this album’s strength lies in its flow. There’s this sense of confident ease in how the band can switch gears, transitioning from mellow to maniacal in a heartbeat, and a lot of it comes down to its excellent production, self-produced with mixing headed by regular Karnivool collaborator (Kollaborator?), Forrester Savell. Going back to previous discography shows this has always been a strong suit for the quintet, but ‘The Long Dream’ doesn’t shy away from building on that previous skill, and this refinement means Ebonivory are able to separate moments of lightheartedness and looseness from the technically intricate walls of noise that prog often demands, while still being able to interweave the two together in perfect harmony.

The slow ethereal nature of ‘Sea Sons’ and ‘In Reverie’ – which really feel like sister tracks that bring momentary reprieve through faint piano and ambient sound – will slowly become more intense to match and blend into the rather symphonic entry of ‘Window Man’, which echoes the sound of bands like Arcane Roots, and quickly and gracefully pushes further into screaming syncopation in ‘Explosions After Dark’. This flow is what makes for a truly exceptional sound, one that passes time quickly, as although the record stands at 13 tracks it feels far briefer at times.

These moments of connection within the album are impressive given how diverse Ebonivory’s sound has grown. The aforementioned varied guitars and drums are joined by brief guests like the ballad-like strings on ‘Cats’, and the electronic elements to the backing of ‘Tales Of Termina’, which give the song its namesake (Majora’s Mask club represent!). They don’t quite dip into these moments of variance as often or as heavily as they could in each song, preferring to stay focused on their prog-based technical sound, which is a shame, given the ease at which they are able to slip into those elements in the first place. This sound is what ends the record with the eight-minute, mostly instrumentally-focused ‘The Bluegums’, and ‘Introvection’, which closes with a surprisingly heartfelt acoustic guitar. Both of these are right in the wheelhouse of the group, but they feel more risky than the opening third, and it pays off somewhat, finishing the album on a high note.

Ebonivory’s latest foray is a cohesive collection of prog tracks that will satisfy anyone looking for their technical rock fix, with brief moments of inventiveness sprinkled in. As a whole, though, with its subtle production elements and ability to change its pace at the right time, every time, it becomes so much more. This is an album that truly hits its stride with a full listen through, and each new playthrough will uncover some new small element to fall in love with. ‘The Long Dream I’  places Ebonivory slap bang amongst the best of the Australian heavy music scene, and if this is the beginning of something bigger, then it’s a most welcome omen.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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