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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blood of The Black Owl - Light The Fires! (2012)

Band: Blood of The Black Owl
Country: Seattle, Washington
Style: Funeral Doom/Dark Ambient
Label: Bindrune/Handmade Birds

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was first introduced to BoTBO through my father (a power/prog metal fan). I say I'm embarrassed because this the sort of band/project that I usually find on my own and it kind of makes me feel a little bit disheartened about my ability to find unique artists in the underground (not that my dad even likes BoTBO anymore). But, aside from that, after Chet W. Scott's supposed hiatus of this project after 2010's A Banishing Ritual, here we have another BoTBO full-length.
For those that weren't aware, Chet Scott had said after the release of A Banishing Ritual that he was going to take some time away from BoTBO in order to focus on his other projects like The Elemental Chrysalis. Last year we saw Handmade Birds release his split with At The Head of The Woods, which wasn't new material, in the sense that it was more of a B-side from the 2010 recording sessions, but throughout the latter stages of the year we got previews foreshadowing the eventual release of this record. I have to say that from what I remember of the trailer for the album, I heard some pretty savage metal bits. Now, I don't know what might have happened between the release of that trailer and the final release of this final end product, but something definitely occurred. The sound of this album is far more in line with the more meditative and ritualistic ambient ideas explored in newest outputs from BoTBO as well as Scott's more ambient projects. What I expected was an album that would embrace a bit more of the metal side of the project, heard on the first two full-lengths, but this is definitely not that.
As opener Caller of Spirits clearly points out, if you're looking for any sort of "traditional" form of metal aggression, you better look elsewhere, because it's not on here. That opening thirteen minute epic is a somber ritual full of chanting, wind instruments, field recordings, and various forms of hand percussion. While following tracks do bring in the use of traditional rock instruments (guitar, bass, drum kit) I can't say that it ever achieves any form of metallic aggression. Instead what appears to have been conveyed through several of these tracks is a more vengeful melancholy. Each track is very pensive and, in a sense, withdrawn, if there is rage or anger on here, it's not shown very often and instead favors the repetitive nature of melancholy. Stylistically, it tends to draw more from folk and ambient music than any form of rock or metal, though there are a few instances of those influences popping through, as expressed on the most outwardly violent track Sundrojan. You'd think that by the time this electricity was finally brought in I'd be excited, but for myself, I found that to be the most dull track on the entire album. It's like, "Yeah, you brought in a distorted guitar to do some droning doom parts, and you sound a bit more angry, but what does it amount to?" Not very much. It's just sort of listless and drags it's feet compared to the other songs, and this song is only seven and a half minutes long, meaning there are five tracks on here that are longer and far more engaging.
Surprisingly, the lengths of the songs on here didn't provide as much of a hurdle for me to get over as some previous outings have been from the project. It's not like these tracks are extremely progressive and forward thinking or even uber droning, they have ideas, some better than others, but each track has its own kind of evolution, whether it's the more subtle one expressed on Rise and Shine or the more typical soft-to-heavy on Soil Magicians, they have an idea and each track sort of just runs with it. The shorter tracks, like the aforementioned Sundrojan is probably the weakest track because it just feels so bland in the middle of more powerful, but softer instrumentally, pieces. Wind Eye may be structurally rather uninteresting, but the idea is simple and consistent, creating a hypnotic atmosphere that draws you in, and ultimately is a better track than the above Sundrojan. The album's opening and closing tracks, which are the most meditative on the album, reflect the journey that is the album (I'm not going to even begin to touch what that journey might be, you look into it/make your own assumptions for yourself there). It's the opening chant that brings you into this world and the droning electricity that sends you out of it.
Unfortunately, I have never been the biggest fan of Chet Scott's work (I know, big shocker), I think what he's done musically is interesting and certainly worthy of praise, but I'm not so impressed with it that I would say I not bored with some of it. I think that while the majority of this record is actually really good, there are a couple of tracks that I just couldn't get into during numerous listens through. I'd still say that if you're interested in folk, doom, or various forms of ambient music to definitely look into his material though.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Rise and Shine, Two Ravens At The Tree Line, Disgust and The Horrible Realization of Apathy

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