Monday, March 2, 2015

REVIEW: Flock of Crows - That He May Turn Away from Hell Below

Another review I wrote for Metal Archives, for this EP.

This is it. This is as grim, low-fi, or underground as Christian metal, or any metal, is probably capable of being.

This is two long tracks of surreal, droning guitar playing. There are no drums anywhere on this, and there are no vocals. (I honestly can't tell if there's any bass in these recordings. I can't tell where the rumbling guitars end and any possible bass begins.) Admittedly I don't listen to too much drone, but the style on offer is pretty unique for my ears. You have the rumbling guitar chords and extremely slow playing of drone metal, the somber attitude and reverberated atmosphere of funeral doom, and plenty of guitar feedback and raw, biting production that make for a very noisy listen. There's also plenty of tremolo picking, which I know some drone bands also do, but I can't shake some slight black metal influences when those sections come in.

Each of the things I described above tend to happen at the same time as something else, combining and changing form regularly. Tremolo picked riffs over some rumbling guitar chords will give way to a period of reverberated guitar feedback and minimalistic droning static. This will then change into something else yet. These constant changes, added with the constant reverb, make for a very atmospheric, dreamy listen. This, along with all the feedback, is probably part of where the "dark ambient" tag comes from.

If I have any complaints about this, it's probably that the music can feel a bit unorganized or directionless. I really can't say what was in the artist's head, though. This is a very peculiar style, and for all I know, what I perceive as a seemingly random switch-up, or a slip of the hand now and then, may be a completely intentional move here. I still like it, mind you, and the atmosphere is still achieved, but the seeming lack of direction may put some people off. "The Way of Life Turns Upward for the Wise"'s abrupt ending admittedly doesn't help with that.

The end result of this listening experience depends entirely on what you think of these styles in the first place. You may be like me and find this strangely dreamy and hypnotic, washing over you. However, you may be like a lot of other people who, understandably, will find the noisy production difficult to listen to, and the music long and boring (or at the very least, lacking in other instruments). If you're someone who leans toward the latter, this EP probably won't change your mind on that. But if you're someone who usually likes raw/droning/noisy music anyway, this band is absolutely worth investing some time into.

I guess if you wanted to compare this to something, it's kind of like some Like Drone Razors Through Flesh Sphere songs, but without the percussion. I've also noticed over the years that Christian music just tends to sound slightly different from its secular counterparts. This EP, while far from bright and cheerful, feels less "dark" or "sinister" at its core than other drone I've heard. I doubt most listeners would actually care one way or another, but I've always found it to be a plus in Christian metal. Overall, it's good for what it is, I'm just not completely sure what it is. I'd definitely recommend this EP.. but I'm not quite sure to whom.

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