Nature, and more specifically man’s role within it has long played a crucial part in Heavy Metal. Depending on how you see it, the pine-scented blasting of Wolves in the Throne Room and the snowy desolation of Agalloch either act as a conduit to the natural world or a welcome change of tone from tales of clapped-out Christian mythology. However there are some artists who truly seek beyond into the wilderness and leave their peers looking as potent as a trustafarian holding a coffee-chain wheatgrass smoothie. Seattle’s Blood of the Black Owl are one of them.
Created as “a voice to help expose, understand and heal an increasingly egoic nature of programmed disconnection and sickness we as a species carry within”, Blood of the Black Owl is the vision of Chet W. Scott, a man on an intensely meaningful journey towards personal growth and spiritual progression. “Light the Fires!”, his fourth release under the Blood of the Black Owl moniker sounds like it was recorded in a smoke-filled yurt on the edge of a forested hillside while Shamans chant devotion to the spirits and wolves howl their approval in the distance.
First track ‘Caller of Spirits’ is a perfect example of the ambient folky drone that is Scott’s weapon; 13 minutes of throat singing, humming instrumentation and an overall feeling of ritual ascension. ‘Wind’s Eye’ feels awfully short by comparison, with Scott “staring through the window” at the bare bones of a Neurosis number, stripped of flesh and left with only the dust of ages, but still captivates.
Next track ‘Rise and Shine’ is suitably titled, conjuring images of a shimmering sunrise above the treetops as the melodious Earth style playing seeks to render time and place meaningless in its own languid manner. Wind howls, multi-layered vocals weave their poetic spell and the feeling of naked desolation becomes all encompassing. Some gorgeous flute makes an appearance, with its understated 70’s prog vibe merging seamlessly into the atmosphere of cleansing tonality.
Things take a different turn on the early Anathema style doom-death of ‘Sundrojan’ as the dirge-like guitars and Scott’s haggard vocals transport the listener to a different realm entirely, one much darker than previously hinted at. ‘Two Raven’s at the Tree Line’ returns to the mellow, apocalyptic folk themes of earlier, meandering down a barren woodland path with only the occasional crashing gong, flute flourish and chiming chord to add colour.
‘Soil Magicians’ forages for inspiration and meaning in the dirt and returns with a fuller instrumental folk feel but can’t resist occasionally abandoning the scene to frolic with its wolfen brethren beside a babbling creak as ambient field recordings take charge of the pack. Just when you were getting comfortable however, the crushing doom-death re-emerges to bruise rather than draw blood, demonstrating the perils of being unprepared. We are left with ‘Disgust and the Horrible Realization of Apathy’; a grim walk through Thergothon haunted shades of descending night, with no clue what awaits us on the other side.
With “Light the Fires!” Scott has done a masterful job of revealing our disassociation from the natural order and expanded upon his quest for truth in a world that offers only hollow promises. The flames have been lit and he is the torch bearer on the path that Neurosis and a few others tread. Only those with a similar strength of will need follow.