The Lion’s Daughter & Indian Blanket – A Black Sea (Good Die Young Music, 12 November 2013)
Hello out there, hope you all are having a good afternoon! If you caught the article I wrote yesterday, you would have been treated to an unsettling combination of folksy Americana (Bask) and grimy, noisy metal (American Heritage). Writing about those two bands together reminded me of another incredible album — one which actually combines an American folk band with a heavy, sludgy metal band (Indian Blanket and The Lion’s Daughter, respectively), both of whom are from Saint Louis. This album was released nearly two years ago, and I’ve been in love with it ever since, but somehow never got around to writing about it.
I was actually excited about this album from the first time I heard that it was being made — before I ever heard any of the music on it — because I was already familiar with one of the bands involved. The Lion’s Daughter had been on tour with another band from St. Louis, the amazing Fister, when I wrote about that band’s album Gemini on the day that they both came here to Pittsburgh — which, by some remarkable coincidence, was exactly two years ago today! It may have been because I’d listened to Fister a lot prior to the show but hadn’t really known anything about their tourmates at the time, so I didn’t really have any particular expectations before seeing them, but The Lion’s Daughter completely blew me away that evening. I feel like both bands managed to bring equal amounts of intensity and sheer volume (and for those of you who’ve seen Fister, you’ll know that is no easy task!)
Anyway, several months later a collaborative effort with their friendly neighborhood folk band came to fruition, and it was every bit as cool as I had hoped for — in fact, it has seemed to grow on me even more with repeated listens, to the point where I ended up including it among my favorite albums of 2013. Check out A Black Sea for yourself, and I think you’ll see why.
The first song of this collaborative LP, “Wolves,” starts off slowly and softly, making the listener feel safe and complacent (just like the titular creature is often reputed to do in allegories) with a simple acoustic guitar pattern and some gentle singing — at first there’s a slight crescendo courtesy of the addition of some violin, percussion, and a subtle bit of distorted guitar in the background, then the electric guitar kicks in just a bit more at the next crescendo — but it isn’t until around the halfway point of the song that it really shifts into heavy mode, combining the full force of harsh vocals and the beauty of the strings to really give the listener a taste of what the juxtaposition between these two bands’ styles can really accomplish.
While some of the tracks here put much more emphasis on one of the participants — “Swann” is chiefly an exercise in blackened sludge, for example, while “Song for the Devil” is pretty much all acoustic and folk singing (despite occasionally threatening to take a turn for the heavier like the opening track often did; instead it incorporates some mournful-sounding Native American-inspired background vocals), the strength of this album really lies in the seamless blending of highly contrasting elements into an intriguing whole.
Like the way the heavy, sludgy riffing in “First First” gives way to a lilting banjo part, and tortured howls alternate with folk balladeering; the way the instrumental “Timeless Waters” incorporates harsh banshee-like tormented sounds in the background. Of course, it helps that the folk elements here are fairly dark and colored with feelings of despair (as American folk music often is), which certainly lends itself to successfully combining with the depressive sound of sludgy doom metal — perhaps making for a stronger overall picture as the dulcet tones are accentuated by the underlying ugliness that continues to rear its head throughout…
Speaking of ugliness, here is the video for “Swann”:
And as a bonus, please also enjoy “The Horror of Existence” from The Lion’s Daughter‘s split with Fister, taken from that Pittsburgh show back in July 2013:
You can hear the full album using the Bandcamp widget below, and buy yourself a copy right here.
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