The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale
Southern Lord Records
There are very few things I’m sure of in this life; one of them is that Eagle Twin loves the Melvins. The other is that Godheadsilo were way, way ahead of the curve. For those scratching their heads, Godheadsilo were a two piece that produced weird, often heavy, music that most people laughed at. Now we have Eagle Twin, who have effectively taken superior cues from Melvins and Godheadsilo and injected them into their own sinister soup of doom and sludge (with a dash of drone).
When last we heard from Eagle Twin they had unleashed The Unkindness Of Crows. The reaction was unilaterally positive; people loved this new and informed take on the whole doom and sludge idea. Sure slow is fun, slow is cool, but if there’s nothing else happening then it gets boring. Eagle Twin ooze riffage, they bleed thick molasses guitar lines and pounding drums meant to turn your silly mortal bones into powder. Eagle Twin’s newest offering, The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale, is further growth for the dynamic duo of doom.
The opening track is…..well, actually, fuck you because there is no opening track. Sure the band was kind enough to split The Feather into seven separate songs but this album is one long movement, an expansive tale told in various chapters. For the faithful, this album is the continuation of The Unkindness Of Crows. The Crows battled the sun and have been returned to the Earth as snakes. That concept alone should drive you to buy the album. Come for the ideas, stay for the doom. If you’re a stickler for tracks, then here’s the gist.
Eagle Twin erupt into The Feather with “The Ballad Of Job Cain Part I”. There is a brief intro where a creepy voice drains through feedback but soon the riff comes in. Huge doesn’t begin to describe what Eagle Twin are doing. There are bands out there with five and six members that would kill to be as heavy as this band. Much like The Melvins early days, Eagle Twin love to bash the same riff over and over through a wall of droning feedback. The difference is that Eagle Twin is heavier, thicker and way meaner. Where The Melvins had a sense of humor about their music, Eagle Twin sound like they want to kill you.
Overall the music on The Feather exists in a push pull between straight doom, drone and sludge. The doom parts are obvious, slow and plodding, but the drone and sludge often mix together. Sludge has a bit more of pace than doom but it can slow down easily into a mix of distortion and feedback. Eagle Twin blur the line between drone and sludge easily and that works for the album. It helps to bring layers to what the band is doing and keeps the music visceral.
I won’t lie. This album isn’t for everybody. You have to love the swirling vortex of musical darkness that envelops you. You have to be able to sit and drink in the repetitive nature of the riffs and really listen for the nuances of the song writing. In other words, if you’re there to bang your head and do the “mosh dancing”, might I suggest As I Lay Dying? For those who are willing to try out The Feather, I implore you, listen to it front to back without stopping. As good as the songs might be individually, it’s nothing compared to The Feather on a whole.
Dark themes, sludge, doom, droning feedback, interesting musical interplay and sick vocals? Eagle Twin package all of it into a fifty-four minute epic that rivals Sleep’s Dopesmoker in intensity and scope. If ever Satan needed entrance theme music, this could be just the thing.
Hydra Head Records
At some point there was a turn with Black Metal. It went from the kind of hokey Carpathian forest, burn churches for metal and stab each other vibe to something much more serious and artistic. Over the last decade bands from all corners of the globe have lifted Black Metal into a new arena. From the well-produced riff-fest of Primordial to the epic Anaal Nathrakh, the Americana laced Panopticon and the more traditional Black Metal of Petrychor, the genre has seen a serious rebirth.
Sitting square in that arena is Holland’s Nihill, a band that simply does not let up, ever. This is not easy Black Metal, this is the traditional sense of the genre made even bleaker. Nihill’s newest offering Verdonkermaan is an unforgiving record, one that dares the listener to like it and challenges you at every turn. There is no “riff” here, no melody, and no semblance of verse-chorus-verse. Instead Verdonkermaan is an odyssey of the desolate and cold.
The instruments are all crushed together and recorded in what sounds like a coke bottle. The production across the board it thin and saturated with high end, which is on purpose. Low end brings some humanity to music and Nihill have no interest in humanity. From the opening note Nihill are bent on hammering their artistic statement down your throat until you relent. Imagine facing a hundred mile walk across the frozen arctic and you get an idea of the imagery connected to Verdonkermaan.
Opening with “Vuur—The Deathwind Of Resurrection”, Nihill make it very clear that there is to be no rest from what they do. The guitars bathe you in a wash so cold it’s like touching dry ice. The vocals howl their disdain from behind the musical bashing to a point that the whole song becomes disturbing. From then on you are either hooked into what Nihill are doing or you have run screaming into the night. Verdonkermaan is not something easily digestible, you have to be involved with it, fight with it, hate it and eventually embrace it. Most aren’t willing to do that, which is their loss.
Once you have moved past the initial shock of what Nihill do, the overall thematic idea and musical power begins to bleed through. I think of Verdonkermaan like one of those pictures of nothing you stare at and eventually see ship or a dolphin. Nihill’s musical attack is so visceral that it feels like a thousand audio blades being ripped through your flesh. Don’t give up though. Stare at it and deal with the album on your own terms. Eventually the true art will burn through and the album will become something you can’t turn away from.
The only rest from the attack comes with “Gnosis Pt. IV”. Nihill lay a deep foundation of ambient sounds and feedback and lace hushed whispers over it. The result is unnerving and, if you listen to it long enough, maddening. For seven minutes the whispers continue over the noise-scape. You think your band has balls? Try a whole song of Exorcist style whispers over a bed of noise. Vendonkermaan ends with “Trauma: Crushing Serpens Mercuriales” and eight minute epic Nihill uses to remind us that they give exactly zero fucks about our opinion of their music. It doesn’t get more artistically pure than a band like Nihill or an album like Verdonkermaan.
6-7 Very Good