Formed back in 2007, it wouldn’t be until close to seven years later that listeners got their first taste of what Belgium’s Eleanora was capable of courtesy of a split with Amenra. Since then the group’s continued to fine tune their blend of sludge, post hardcore, and a little bit of 90s screamo, with this year’s Mere providing equal amounts of melancholic melodies and abrasive riffs while providing a slightly more compact listen than 2016’s Allure. Although the individual elements that make up Mere’s methodical attack are likely to feel familiar, they’ve been woven together in a way that sucks you right in and it’s evident that Eleanora has taken a significant leap forward with this latest effort.
With riffs that spread outwards with immense amounts of darkness and despair and fairly methodical pacing, Eleanora’s songwriting pulls from a lot of sludge/doom influences as well as some post metal acts from over the years, often bringing the likes of Neurosis, Cult of Luna, and the aforementioned Amenra to mind. But where this group has always diverged from this sound is in their incorporation of hardcore and screamo elements, and that continues to be a distinguishing element throughout Mere. Where its predecessor was focused on very lengthy arrangements that build up slowly and covered a lot of ground, this time around the writing is a bit more direct and leans upon some of the hardcore side a bit more with generally faster tempos. That’s not to say that Eleanora has gone full steam ahead for the entire album, as while there are some blasting sections there’s still a methodical feel to their rhythms and they tend to favor mid-tempo attacks. It’s an approach that works to their advantage, as the jagged edges and wall of sound on songs like “Korre” flow seamlessly into the softer melodies and almost post-rock feel of “Eb”. At times the tonality and darker atmosphere reminds me of France’s Celeste, though Eleanora has more moments of calm and pause to their writing. There are some truly stunning peaks, particularly on the second half where the darkness seems to permeate every aspect of the instrumentals and even when the guitar work brings the bounciness and almost hopeful feeling of post hardcore to mind everything is still drenched in melancholy and retains its harsher aesthetic. Admittedly it did take a little while for the album to truly get going and some of the guitar work did remind me just a bit too much of the bands mentioned earlier, but there’s just something about how Eleanora was able to pull everything together that kept me coming back for more.
The vocals are where the post hardcore and screamo elements are often most prominent, as the group’s lead singer has one of those high-pitched screams that pierces through the recording. There’s so much emotion behind each word that it can sometimes feel overwhelming, even when the instrumentals have let off the gas slightly. While there are other doom and sludge bands that utilize this same type of approach, the harshness of the pitch reminds me a lot more of screamo like Funeral Diner and pg.99 which really ups the appeal of Eleanora’s material. It also helps that the verses are fairly spread out on each song, allowing the vocals to refocus and maintain that Earth-shattering level of intensity without becoming too repetitive or overbearing.
While Eleanora’s latest doesn’t truly hit its stride until the second half and their overall approach feels familiar, they’re pulling from a combination of metal and hardcore genres that have drawn me in time and time again and do them justice. By merging in hints of screamo and post hardcore’s emotional and more fluid nature into methodical and abrasive instrumentation, Mere reaches some intense peaks that are sure to keep listeners coming back. I still think there’s room for these guys to further incorporate these elements and break the mold even further, but they’ve come a long way and anyone with a taste for sludge and doom will likely get quite a bit of longevity out of this album. Mere is available from Consouling Sounds and Dunk!Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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