Release DetailsLABEL Bindrune Recordings
RELEASED ON 2/7/2010
GENRES Drone Ambient,Pagan,Atmospheric
Blood of the Black Owl
A Banishing Ritual
posted on 2/2010 By:
I was actually hesitant to throw my hat in the ring when I first saw this record in the Metal Review queue . Not necessarily because I wanted someone else to have a fair swing, but mostly in that Blood of the Black Owl recordings require a very specific mindset and level of fortitude necessary to fully absorb and digest what's plated by head holy-fellow, Chet W. Scott. That's not meant to be interpreted as a slight; the fact of the matter is, Blood of the Black Owl's music, when consumed and fully assimilated as I imagine it's intended to be, can cause the lightest of moods to bend sharply towards dark self-reflection that's honestly rather draining. Cathartic, but draining. However, as a grizzled veteran of the game, I crave a good challenge, even if it's likely to steer me on a path that lands me toe-to-toe with cranial bogeymen. So, back into the medicine house we go...
The first thing noticeably different about Banishing Ritual is how comparably shorter it is to the band's first two full-lengths. But its deceiving brevity steps up to the contest as one lengthy 41-minute tune, so I'd still call it a formidable motherfuckin' beast, even if it is shorter than the first two records by a good half hour. The second most evident shift is the fact that this record is probably the least metallic sounding piece of music the band has recorded to date, but still manages to be the darkest and most haunting. Less than 5-minutes worth of Banishing Ritual is actually devoted to conventional metal clobbering with plodding, pow-wow-rhythmic riffs (right after the 13:00 mark. And it's a doozy -- like a 900lb bear giving you cardiopulmonary resuscitation). So, if you're looking for a "straight-up metal album to kick your ass," this ain't really gonna be your thing; but Blood of the Black Owl has never really been too concerned with myopic metal fans.
The most notable transformation in the BotBO camp, however, is the sheer amount of focus given to casting this particular spell with what I can only think to call "dark ambient music." It's almost as if Mr. Scott has sealed himself in a room for the last year with nothing but records from the likes of Elegi, Dead Letters Spell Out Words, Nordvargr or B.J. Nilsen, and it fits his dark vision beautifully. Large spans of 10-minutes-plus are devoted to building "heaviness" with glacially expanding drifts of cavernous sine-waves that crest and crush the listener when melded with the band's signature use of indigenous instruments and sporadic use of ghostly/grumbly vocals. The entire first quarter of Banishing Ritual features a billowing chambered "darkness" that eventually ushers in Native American drum rhythms, crashes and flashes of floating flute. And this "cavernous darkness" returns following the relatively brief riffing measure at the 13:00 mark to be carried alongside a slowly crescendo-ing eccentric organ pulse that's spotted with echoed grumble-growled howls of "I will stab...and cut" and "I consume...your hate" -- a rather unsettling thunderhead that billows and eventually shrouds the brain when experienced in a nice set of headphones.
Whispers and rattling wind chimes eventually steer the spell towards a surprisingly quiet start to the last quarter of the record with gently plucked electric guitar/bass and the album's strongest lean on hissing and spoken vocals. But the calm once again leisurely leads to the storm as the last 5-minutes of the trance pock the brain with demented keyboards, rhythmic pounding and generous scoops of blackened howls and screeches that definitely finishes the record on a deliciously unsettling note.
I've been on board for the entire Blood of the Black Owl journey, but found Banishing Ritual to be the most auspicious material to date from these brooding Shamans of the Northwest. It's too bad, really, because according to the Bindrune Records website, this album marks the closing of a chapter for the band as they put things on hiatus while Mr. Scott focuses his full attention on his other indigenous project, Ruhr Hunter. But, I think it's best to look at this as yet another example of the ever-spinning Ouroboros: He may have finally caught up to his tail, but that doesn't necessarily signify a conclusion. I certainly count myself as one who hopes the cycle eventually continues.
Definitely recommended to the more adventurous metal fan who's not afraid of taking a fascinating tumble into the dark recesses of...
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