Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Owl – You Are the Moon, I Am the Night (2013) | 83%

No regret! No retrospection!”

Christian Kolf is one of the most interesting musicians in the modern German metal scene. Fronting the weird doom/death band Valborg which is constantly releasing strong albums since their inception in the early 2000s and the excellent psychedelic sludge/whatever band Woburn House, he's a busy man. Owl is another project of his and it's still top notch metal, they're at their second full length stage and I feel they improved compared to their 2011 debut. Before continuing, I'd like to warn you that if you don't like long ass songs, just go back to your safe ten songs for forty minutes death metal album and be comfortable in your conservatism.

The approach found on “You Are the Moon, I Am the Night” is rather unique, it evolved from their self titled album into something more refined. It's exploring the realms of death metal but at the same time, incorporating enjoyable, exterior influences. Their basis remains death metal and it sounds like if Morbid Angel found a bigger brain or Nile got kicked out of their Egyptian McDonald. It has a very grandiose concept and an epic sort of riffing with a great guitar tone

The vocals of Kolf are deep and cavernous, akin to Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel, they definitely get the job done even though Kolf is first and foremost a composer, you can hear the similarity found in his other bands but transferred into a death metal setting compared to the mixes of . These rough vocals can be catchy and they sometimes rely on repetitions of lines to prove their point like “I will destroy you!” on the title track. Quite visceral! Outside of the harsh vocals, there's some profound but not cheesy cleans. Furthermore, the title track features a strange semi harsh, sludgey and almost spoken word French, it seemed to be poetry and it felt familiar but it appears to be original lyrics, they're quite good too. A romantic metaphor about the sun and the moon, very adapted to their profound music.

The album starts with two monster tracks, the eighteen minutes title track and the fourteen minutes “Clouds of the Mourning Spring”. Both very intricate and atmospheric songs full of nuances. The release ends with an ambient track just like it did on their previous album but fortunately this time, it's fortunately only fourteen minutes rather than half an hour, thank Satan for that. I like ambient but this was simply too much for me, after ten minutes, we got the message.  Nevertheless, there's still a tendency of being simply too atmospheric. I can't help to think that the last ambient track is unnecessary, Kolf has an ambient band calleGruenewald, I reckon he could keep these influences for this project instead. Still, the ambient influence is incorporated into their sound on the three metal tracks, it's certainly a part of their identity. Structurally speaking, it's not the most cohesive album, there's even a one minute interlude that would had been integrated easily in one of the other tracks. It's a bit too loose and could benefit from a tighter direction.

They can be compared to state brothers The Ruins of Beverast in a sense that they're dissecting their genres while adding instrumental, hypnotizing and emotional parts. They're both using various elements to develop their approach and in the case of mister Kolf, he's not scared of diving into atmospheric sludge/post metal to get what he's looking for. That's reflected by the cultoflunesque production and the coldness of the riffs. There's no place for long leads that are giving their sometimes overpaid place to clean guitar parts that are creating interesting background soundscapes. This mix of hard hitting slow and doomy death with sludge influences is really damn enjoyable and the songs don't feel like they're twenty minutes long.

Owl is for adventurous listeners who have a desire for for a subtle, progressive and atmospheric death metal recipe. It's still keeping the sense of dread the genre is known for but it's making it airy and dreamy. Like an owl, it's living in the dark shades of the night, waiting for a naive prey to appear. Bringing it to its nest to be devoured, lifeless.

It's recommended even though they could remove the fat from their sound but then the project wouldn't be that justified since Valborg already explores a tighter doom/death sound albeit with a twisted behaviour. It's an uncompromising album proving once again that death metal can think outside of the box and be particularly inventive. Owl is fighting the old school death metal scene while also being free from the constraints of a modern and technical sound which is overcompensating with solos and noodling. Comparable to Portal, the Germans are relying on building frameworks made out of unorthodox structures and influences. Owl, on the other hand, creates something with a sense of familiarity, it's not as discordant and unapproachable.

1 comment:

Alternative and underground music said...

Props and kudos to Owl for doing something kinda different. But those crushingly long tracks lengths... that's pretty special. I'd dig what's being done here, if I could sit still long enough to take in all 18+ minutes of the title track.
Here's my nitpick though: that artwork. Seriously dude, he spent however long putting together massive complex epic tracks and that's the best cover he can come up with?