This fourth full-length from US BM mob Yellow Eyes opens with tinkling bells, sighing wind and drifting birdsong.
Soon, we’re taken up in a windstorm of buzzing guitar.
Atmospheric, pastorally-charged BM is certainly in hale health these days, with the recent return of Wolves in the Throne Room with ‘Thrice Woven’, new bands popping up constantly, and even the popular ‘Atmospheric Black Metal’ YouTube channel now catering for over 100k subscribers.
So how do Yellow Eyes push their vision in such an increasingly crowded field?
‘Immersion Trench Reverie’ does a good job of it by employing restless, constantly inventive guitar patterns and sudden drops into enveloping field-recordings.
The promo blurb for this asserts that the Skarstad brothers (who we interviewed back in 2014), both wielding guitars in Yellow Eyes, made a number of field recordings during a “month in Siberia” that were then sprinkled across the record.
These are relatively few in number but instantly stand out when they pop up throughout the record.
The band favour a strident, resonanting BM sound that is tightly wound around melodic structures.
Walk out of the room while the record is playing, and the notes that travel through the walls to the next room over sound vaguely like a string quartet vigorously thumping away, but keeping in tune with each other.
Guitar passages swell, mutate new aspects, and then stretch off in different directions. There is a good degree of dissonance mixed into the mix, which reaches an early highlight on ‘Shrillness In The Heated Grass’.
Here, uplifting, shredding guitar is played against doleful sections of slow picking, before we’re unceremoniously teleported to what sounds like a tableau of grouses singing at sunset and a gold-voiced country choir.
All very enjoyable and enchanting enough, but we’re straight back into tremolo guitar-land on ‘Velvet On The Horns’, which kicks off suddenly with nauseating, chiming riff. The strong, earthen ‘thwack’ of the kick drum draws parallels with lower-fi 90s BM.
There really is a strong commitment to inventive and consuming guitar, which is liberally layered across the record.
At its best, it’s both aggressive and oddly deconstructed sounding, with a repeated riff on the title track bringing to mind a kind of buzzing bluegrass fury, and inviting comparisons with Panopticon’s recent efforts.
It should be remarked that the record comes across as a clear cousin to Drudkh’s timeless ‘Autumn Aurora’. From the colours used on both artworks, to the birdsong samples and distant, overseeing vantage point of the screamed vocals in the mix – the records have a lot in common.
The all-encompassing hypnotism of Drudkh at their best is a hard thing to rival though, and they’ve often softly woven in samples with great effect.
‘Immersion Trench Reverie’, by contrast, is far more detached, abrasive and obtuse in its instrumental attack. The samples, also by contrast, seem to exist in a world more removed from the actual band’s dark string movements.
Then again, if some of the album was recorded in rural Russia, and the other by a young BM band in USA 2017, then maybe they truly are from different worlds. It makes for an interesting study: do the samples conflict more than compliment?
Ultimately, there’s plenty here for BM fans to take away.
The impression is that Yellow Eyes are treading the boundary between two different styles. There’s neither the emotional sweep of their more melodic brethren, nor the outright chaos and darkness of BM’s underbelly.
Instead, this sits somewhere on the boundary between night and day. The dynamism of the guitars, the richness of those samples when they come along, and the smooth pacing all make it well spending time with on these ever-darkening evenings.
3.7 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 09/12/17