Blood of the Black Owl
A Feral Spirit
posted on 11/2008 By:
Digesting A Feral Spirit in its entirety is essentially akin to pounding a big Robitussin High Ball with a Mescaline twist. Hell, I'm not even sure what I'd call the music slowly drifting from my speakers at this very moment. Obviously there's a heavy nod towards the funeral doom genre, an element even more prevalent on Blood of the Black Owl's self-titled '06 endeavor, but this latest record truly trips into an entirely new stratosphere. Trouble is, I'm not quite sure I'm fucked up enough to fully appreciate it, and that's coming from a guy who considers himself an extremely open-minded fan of weird heavy metal.
First of all, let me just say I truly appreciate what Chet W. Scott's delivering with this project: a very environmental, indigenous and primordial soundscape meant to accommodate open-minded metal fans interested in both self-reflected meditation and the idea of returning to a much more feral way of life. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. And you know, the dude goes about his craft in such a creative way, it makes it damn-near impossible to draw comparisons with any other band. While I'd undoubtedly agree that the heart of this project is rooted in the sloooow, menacing traits of funeral doom, A Feral Spirit also throws in a wide variety of quieter instrumentation that adds a lighter, prayer-like feel to the record. Native American flute, (very) slow tribal drums and various rattles pepper nearly every one of these lengthy bouts, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is a wholly relaxing record. There's a very manic and demented shroud draped over quite a bit of this work, and that lunacy touches the heavier moments and many of the softer measures as well, so when I say "meditative" or "prayer-like," think more in terms of tripping balls on peyote in a sweat lodge with a sloth as your spirit guide sorta way.
"Spell of the Elk" opens the album like a quiet, creeping fog slowly billowing from the woods; whispers and grumbles of wolves, crows and coyote's are delivered with accompanying Native American flute and very slow drum beats. This tune and "The Melancholy Article" stand as the album's only fully quiet numbers, with the remaining songs all serving up healthy moments of rhythmic, buzzy riffs that crawl at a funereal pace and spotlight Scott's grumble-gravelly (nearly spoken word) style of vocals. At times the music is a bit too trippy and unsettling for too long a span for my tastes -- the entire second half of "Void", for example -- which can be a bit of a chore when approached stone-sober and not in the middle of the woods. Additionally, I feel Scott relies too much on the echo effect for his voice this time around, which unnecessarily adds to the overall demented state of the record. But these foibles aside, there's really quite a bit to enjoy about A Feral Spirit. "He Who Walked Away from the Fire..." (probably the strongest cut on the record), "Unattainable Vista's of Our Remembrances", "Forest of Decrepitude" and "Journey of the Plague Year" all flash melancholy moments that are actually quite pretty, and when the songs turn towards heavier waters there's a distinct dirty Cirith Ungol flavor that pops in behind the slow riffs at times -- something I actually wish he'd re-focus on for future endeavors.
A Feral Spirit will likely only appeal to the more adventurous of our readers, and it would certainly help if you also count yourself a fan of the funeral doom genre, otherwise I'd steer clear and move on to something much more accessible. There's a few kinks in the armor, as far as I'm concerned, but I really appreciate the fact that Mr. Scott is taking an entirely different approach with this project, and I'd certainly say I'm interested to see where he takes us on the next album. Perhaps he should think about putting the following somewhere on the packaging:
Warning: prolonged exposure to this recording has been known to distort reality, cause hallucinations and enhance perceptions of colors and images. User discretion is advised.
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