Indie Music, Reviews

Makara by E.S. Posthumus: This is What “Ruling” Sounds Like (Review)

February 15, 2010 | | 11 Comments Share thison Facebook Makara by E.S. Posthumus: This is What “Ruling” Sounds Like (Review)on Twitter

In recent weeks I’ve been asking a lot of my friends if they’ve heard of E.S. Posthumus. Most people are unfamiliar with the name. Then I ask them if they remember the awesome music that played for the Sherlock Holmes trailer or if they’re familiar with the theme music for football on CBS. As it turns out, while E.S. Posthumus may not be a household name, their music certainly is.

Last week, the duo released their third album, Makara. We had the opportunity this past December to interview brothers Helmut and Franz Vonlicthen, the creative geniuses behind E.S. Posthumus, regarding their new work. The brothers promised us a very “aggressive” album, and indeed it is.

Click the jump to read our impression of the new album.

For starters, this is the most epic-sounding album E.S. Posthumus has released. From the onset, the brothers come out in full force, and don’t let up until about a third of the way through the album. Even then, it’s only a short breather before they continue pounding away.

Of the fifteen tracks on Makara, the majority are upbeat, heart-thumping, and action-packed, while just two could actually be considered “mellow.” There are also two remixes of classical pieces by Beethoven and Bach. When I first listened to the album, I felt it was a bit too heavy on what the brothers described as “aggressive” music. However, as I continued listening, I really came to appreciate all of the music here.

The opening tracks, “Kalki” and “Varuna,” have similar feels to them. For longtime fans, they are instantly recognizable as E.S. Posthumus songs, having that almost-industrial sound, blending fast-paced drum rhythms with orchestral strings and ominous chants. These two act as a buildup to the most powerful song on the album (which had also been released as a single some time ago), “Unstoppable.”

Most of the song titles on Makara refer to various deities from Hinduism, but “Unstoppable” is an exception. I like to think that after the brothers composed the song, they sat back and listened, and one brother asked, “How do you feel listening to that song?” The other brother then replied, profoundly, “Unstoppable.” It starts with a couple slow, portentous violin notes and some deep percussion before the strings pick up the tempo, creating the sensation of marching into battle. Drums join in to provide a solid backbone, and finally violins and some electric guitar come in with a counter theme to build the tension even higher. At the height of this tension, the music comes to a gradual stop, and after a short pause, we’re plunged into a maelstrom of action as the song reaches its climax.

Then it’s time for a break. “Manju” provides us with our first opportunity to catch our breath. Not only is it a fantastic track, but due to the pace of the album up to this point, its gentle nature makes it that much more wonderful.

The next couple of tracks aren’t nearly as aggressive as the previous ones on the album, but they are certainly upbeat even by E.S. Posthumus standards. “Kuvera” takes advantage of some power chords on the electric guitar to power through the song’s main theme, building up to a series of chants and dramatic violin.

“Lavanya” is the other “slow” song on the album, and like its companion “Manju,” it feels so refreshing amidst the other songs that it’s an instant classic. It pulls you in with a smooth piano melody that is then joined by an acoustic guitar. Several other instruments are utilized throughout to give the piece an ethereal atmosphere. It’s also one of the only songs on the album that doesn’t feature chanting.

The rest of the album seems to be anchored around the other previously-released single, “Arise,” and the two classical remixes, Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” “Vishnu” and “Indra” both feature electronic elements that add some much-appreciated variety to the album before leading us into the powerful “Arise,” after which we are brought down by “St. Matthew Passion.” Two more songs, “Krosah” and “Anumati” continue the sprinting pace before we are finally brought to a contemplative conclusion with “Moonlight Sonata.”

Listening to E.S. Posthumus’ renditions of “St. Matthew Passion” and “Moonlight Sonata” have me nearly convinced that this group should do the music for the next Castlevania game. The industrial feeling they add to the already gothic-sounding pieces is right in line with the game series. “Moonlight Sonata” even incorporates some distorted electric guitar!

The music on this album rocks. But the real genius comes in the order in which the songs are presented. It follows a pattern of building up to an anchor track like “Unstoppable” or “Arise,” but lets up occasionally with more measured tracks like “Manju” and “Lavanya” to allow the listener a chance to recoup their energy. Listening from beginning to end is an experience that must be done to fully appreciate what’s going on. Makara’s pace feels like it’s almost always at full tilt, but on inspection, the subtlety becomes more apparent, and it’s nothing short of genius.

Head over to the official E.S. Posthumus website for streaming samples from every track on the album as well as download links. Will you be picking this one up?

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