Hello there and Happy Friday to you all!
These albums, one nearly three years old and the other reaching its first birthday later this month, have practically nothing in common with each other besides the fact that both bands’ names are lengthy phrases about owls. But sometimes little things like that can randomly grab your attention, and then you accidentally discover that there’s some great music inside, too. I think you just might find this to be the case with either or both of these releases…
The Owls Are Not What They Seem – Feral Blood (Eleventh Key, 19 March 2019)
And Now the Owls Are Smiling – Dirges (Clobber Records, 29 January 2021)
Starting things off with The Owls Are Not What They Seem: their 2019 record is divided into 15 tracks. Perhaps it would be accurate to call them 15 pieces, since for the most part there aren’t any “songs” in the traditional sense here. Following an introduction of sharply, aggressively plucked acoustic guitar, the hour-long album is filled with music that ranges from loosely unstructured to entirely free-form.
Scattered bits of percussion and cymbals (reminiscent of something like “Saucerful of Secrets” or “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”) are joined by the occasional accent of flutes and strings, but predominantly we hear droney chords — sometimes sounding apprehensive, sometimes contemplative or meditative.
Vocally, there’s some indistinct chanting, and some wordless crooning (here sounding more along the lines of “Careful with that Axe, Eugene”), but the main vocals — in places where there are any to be found — are absolutely bestial and ferocious-sounding, like the most hellaciously raw black metal. Finally, in the closing track “Broken,” the listener will be treated to a distant-seeming monstrous roaring.
All around, musically and vocally and even just considering the arrangements, this material certainly falls toward the primal end of the spectrum; actually the adjective used in its title turns out to be an entirely appropriate descriptor: “Feral.”
And now, And Now the Owls Are Smiling. Dirges from last January could most appropriately be described as epic and atmospheric black metal. Front to back, the album transports the listener through a series of stages — a journey quite similar to the famed Kübler-Ross stages of grief, though here we find a total of eight rather than five.
These are “Grief,” “Rejection,” “Darkness,” “Solitude,” “Lucidity,” “Pointlessness,” “Acceptance,” and “Ascension” (in that order), and you’ll truly feel each one of these emotions, through the singularly-membered band’s dense, often symphonic-sounding arrangements — sometimes melancholy and despondent, sometimes more hopeful or at least peaceful, and ultimately, transcendent.
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