There’s a lot of problems faced by underground bands when getting their music released. Arguably, the biggest one is getting people outside of your circle of friends to actually care about what you’re doing. Probably the second biggest problem – and the one that has hamstrung so, so many releases I’ve come across – is that of your music having the production it deserves. Such is the case for anarchist metal band Rookscare on their EP Ecotone. It is a brave, adventurous piece of music, exploring the overlap between nature and technology with varied, interesting songs that are well worth spending time. The trouble is, you may have a hard time hearing the real strengths of those songs due to a quiet, unflattering production. Devote enough time to it though, and you’ll realise that Ecotone rewards such patience.
The opening title track is a behemoth. At almost fourteen minutes long, it takes the best of Neurosis-style heft and weight, and weds it to the early crust feel that bands such as Amebix possessed. There is an emotional and spiritual weight to the music, especially during the solemn, mid-tempo first four minutes; though no emotional power is lost when the band move in to faster, more overtly intense sections later on in the song. There are some great guitar leads during the track, which add an extra poignancy, and a sense of loss and doubt is never far away, no matter how strong and confident the music itself is. More subtle aspects are all littered throughout the track, but hearing these can be difficult, simply due to the quiet nature of the production – this is a record that needs to be turned up loud.
Following the acoustic closing section to the title track, second song ‘The Binding Of Ka-Tet / Arboreal Impedance’ takes a very different route. Here, Ecotone embrace slow-burning atmospheres that wouldn’t be out of place on a modern Earth record, though there’s still an intensity to the music, thanks to some great guitar work in the background. There’s something almost celebratory to some of the movements, especially when keys are introduced to the background, and the acoustic section accompanied by the sound of howling wolves avoids feeling cliche simply by being so damned good. It’s another brave, musically progressive (but not prog!) track, and it’s easy to lose yourself within its varied, yet consistently captivated textures.
The EP closes with a short bonus track, ‘Brother James’, which marks another departure for Rookcare’s sound as they cover the old Sonic Youth song. Here, the band replace the unsettling atmosphere and no wave inspired style of the original with a more belligerent, gothic post-punk sound, as if the most influencial track on Amebix’s Arise! was ‘Drink And Be Merry’. It’s bloody great, and provides further proof – were any needed – of how strong a band Rookscare are.
The only issue with Ecotone, then, is one of production. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just so quiet that you really need to turn your speakers up loud to stand any chance of getting the most out of the EP – and even then, it feels as if some subtleties are being lost. It’s a real shame, as Rookscare are obviously a talented band, and Ecotone has some great songs; they just deserve a better, more muscular production. Don’t let this put you off the EP though; just know that you’ll need to spend some time with Ecotone to get the most out of it.
Ecotone can be streamed, downloaded, and purchased on cassette via Bandcamp.