Evoken’s Hypnagogia (Profound Lore) is the modern equivalent to chamber music. This isn’t only because of the baroque feel to the band’s lethargic doomscape, the sprawling, visceral, atmospheric passages that spread like morning fog across an ancient burial ground. It’s not even because of the mournful piano and classical violin that resonate alongside the distorted guitars, nor the gothic female wails that make John Paradiso’s blackened vocals seem more somber and guttural.
It actually strikes to the very heart of the pioneering funeral doom band. German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) called chamber music “four rational people conversing” to describe how one instrument introduced a melody and the rest of the ensemble followed along in kind. Evoken have made a long, distinguished career by having cascading guitars lead the way and the rest of the band follow, nearly always at the speed of a funeral procession.
On Hypnagogia, the band’s sixth full-length album and first since 2012’s Atra Mors, those guitars are played by Paradiso and Chris Molinari (although he was recently replaced by Randy Cavanaugh when he was unable to commit to touring). It’s not all doom and gloom; about halfway into “Valorous Consternation” after a clean, symphonic interlude, the band breaks the metronome into a hundred pieces with a blinding, death metal display.
Still, that’s the exception to most of the album, which is more typical of a band that was one of the first American bands to pioneer what would become known as funeral doom. It may lack some of the bludgeoning heaviness of the band’s past material, but the solemn, sepulchral melody weaving through “Schadenfreude,” the dark post-doom of “Too Feign Ebullience,” and the title track, which stands out as being led by keyboard swells as opposed to guitars and has an emotional heft that more than atones.
A quarter century after defining funeral doom, Evoken redefines it with the evocative Hypnagogia. The changes are as subtle as the gradual pace of a glacier, but the results are as profound as the cavernous valleys they leave behind.