ENSOPH
"Project X-Katon"

(Cruz Del Sur)

01. In the Name of Freedom
02. Condemned (In the Penal Colony)
03. Kirillow's Bullet (Aleksej Nilyc: A Russian Trilogy Part 1)
04. D-Generation
05. Icons In the Dust
06. Un Petalo di Pieta
07. Getsemani
08. The Source Becomes Desert
09. Holy Bleeds (Rodion Romanyc: A Russian Trilogy Part 2)
10. Pain, Pride and Regret
11. Leaving No Trace Behind (Ivan Karamazov: A Russian Trilogy Part 3)
12. In the Name of Freedom (Reprise)
13. Condemned (Radio Edit)
14. Icons In the Dust (Radio Edit)
15. Leaving No Trace Behind (Radio Edit)

RATING: 7.5/10

Expect eclectic, accessible post-black-metal with electronic elements galore on this bizarre Italian group's second album. Moments of weirdness abound — overwrought clean vocals intertwine with shrieking, whining, borderline-irritating black metal yowls. Piano, flute, and programmed dance beats mix with more tradition metal sections. "D-Generation" is a good microcosm of the many elements ENSOPH is stuffing into one song — if it makes your head hurt or leaves you reaching for your UNLEASHED CDs to cleanse your palate, avoid the rest of the album at all costs, 'cause it's just gonna piss you off.

If, however, you loved it when COVENANT became THE KOVENANT and got all electro, or if you follow bands like VNV NATION and WUMPSCUT, or spend as much time perusing the label site for Metropolis as you do Moonfog, ENSOPH will be the band you've been waiting for. The ratio of electronica to metal varies by song, but both elements are always prominent, and neither seems forced or tacked-on for the sake of being different. Some of the longer songs tend to meander, but the disparate elements are brought together in an ear-pleasing way — most of the time.

Then there's a song like "Un Petalo di Pieta", a haughty, clattering dirge with dueling voices — one sneering and dominant, the other supplicating and submissive. It sounds like it was recorded live in some dank sex dungeon underneath an abandoned cathedral — an industrial slab of electronic hell tailor made for the most deviant of the leather-and-riding-crop set.

More traditional sounding songs, like "Getsemani", still manage to retain that bizarro edge, while showing a dancier side that, if you can believe it, slots somewhere between SATYRICON's latter-day works, RAMMSTEIN, and a surprising touch of "Angel Dust"-era FAITH NO MORE! What the listener is to make of all this is open to question — there's no denying that ENSOPH's unorthodox approach and lack of boundaries will turn off some fans. But this is the kind of band the underground needs, if for no other reason than to keep everyone else from getting too settled into formulas, and make the divider cards at the record store that much less relevant.

And if all this sounds a little too esoteric for its own good (which, occasionally, it is), just check out "The Source Becomes Desert". If there's any justice in the world, this will become a Euro-hit — it's a bit long (and quizzically, doesn't get the radio-edit treatment that three other songs here do) but it blends all ENSOPH's idiosyncrasies into a catchy, accessible, (dare I say it?) danceable track! The band's ability to leave these oases of simpler, more rocked-out material amid the gothic weirdness and screeching black metal parts make "Project X-Katon" quite an interesting, enjoyable trip, albeit definitely not for everyone.

ENSOPH are a band destined and determined to provoke fierce reactions, one way or the other, but their creativity and boldness alone should win them scads of respect. And for those willing to embrace the band's unique vision, it'll be absolute godhead.

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