Tuesday 3 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Yellow Eyes – “Immersion Trench Reverie”

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Gilead Media (LP)

If Yellow Eyes’ output continues to shine like “Immersion Trench Reverie”, it’s only a matter of time until they’re shoulder-to-shoulder with the fellow legends of black metal.

"Immersion Trench Reverie" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Old Alpine Pang
2. Blue as Blue
3. Shrillness in the Heated Grass
4. Velvet on the Horns
5. Immersion Trench Reverie
6. Jubilat

The Review:

Black metal has become the land of musical modifiers: blackgaze, blackened death, black doom, ambient black metal.  The expansiveness of black metal is, by and large, a great thing – is there anything more boring than some TRVE CVLT hipster claiming they have the first pressing of “Dawn of the Black Hearts”?  But sometimes, you need to strip away the permutations and bask in lo-fi menace.  Yellow Eyes are all too happy to oblige with their third album, “Immersion Trench Reverie”.  Brothers and constant members Will and Sam Skarstad hang loosely to the foundational pillars of second wave black metal: stripped down production, frenzied guitars, classical and/or monastic influences, and a preoccupation with sylvan landscapes.

Opener “Old Alpine Pang” establishes the key elements of the record quickly.   A natural field recording (captured by Will and Sam during a trip to Siberia) meshes with bells and footsteps on concrete, before an eruption of reverb laden guitars and double bass drumming.  It’s akin to stumbling into a profaned old world convent.  The guitars are layered without sounding overproduced, creating dramatic tension between the frantic tremolo harmonies and the ringing chords that punctuate the song’s movements.  Will Skarstad’s shrieking vocal attack is dry as summer pine needles, and wouldn’t sound out of place echoing through a darkened forest.  Blue as Blue,” opens with a distinctly Russian folk sample, segueing into massive guitar riffs that evoke the Romantic bombast of Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff.

Shrillness in the Heated Grass” has one of the most subtly menacing opening riffs of the year, like a broken music box from hell, before launching into ethereal, shifting chords.  Pushing through constant suspensions and permutations, Yellow Eyes create a virtual orchestra using only a handful of guitar tracks – you get the distinct impression that these passages would be just as grand and moving in a live four-piece setting.  As the final notes ring out, more of the brothers Skarstads’ Siberian field recordings provide a human, sacred counterpoint to the low end attack of “Velvet on the Horns”.  The track is the most distinctly “progressive” of the sextet, highlighted by tempo and time signature changes.  The guitar harmonies are at their most intricate, while Rekevics’ drumming is inhuman – by the end, I felt exhausted on his behalf.
The title track has some of the most interesting, restrained moments of guitar work on the whole record, sometimes evocative of post-punk, sometimes basking in nauseating dissonance that will make your head ache with masochistic satisfaction.  Once again, the drumming is both frantic and inspired – maybe the best on the record.  Closer “Jubilat”, stretching to ten minutes, is a worthy epic that alludes to Mozart’s Requiem and the ever-present folk elements in equal measure.  In the final movement, Yellow Eyes display supreme confidence, locking into a repeated pattern that will be branded onto your brain well after the final, chiming bells fade out.

On “Immersion Trench Reverie”, Yellow Eyes continue to cement themselves as heroes of the lo-fi underground.  While they’ve honored their forebears in their compositions and production methods, they aren’t some tired pastiche.  It’s almost as if you discovered some long-lost cassette nestled among your black metal classics, a forgotten gem that deserves reconsideration.  If Yellow Eyes’ output continues to shine like “Immersion Trench Reverie”, it’s only a matter of time until they’re shoulder-to-shoulder with the fellow legends of black metal.

“Immersion Trench Reverie” is available here

Band info: bandcamp