Thus far, 2017 has been an outstanding year for basically all sub-genres of black metal.
I don’t know if any label is having a better year in terms of black metal releases, though, than Germany’s Vendetta Records. Back in March, they released Woe’s latest masterpiece Hope Attrition. Then less than two weeks ago, they unleashed Belus’s Apophenia on the black metal world. On October 27, they’ll hit the trifecta with Tyndir, the second full-length from Portland’s Barrowlands. And honestly, this one might be the best of the bunch.
Originally formed by members of two other Portland bands—black metallers Mary Shelley and prog metal outfit Lykaia—Barrowlands accomplish something with their music that I didn’t even realize was possible: they somehow manage to simultaneously be both progressive and subtle in their songwriting. On paper, that may seem like a recipe for cognitive dissonance, but the truth of the matter is that there’s little (if any) dissonance of any kind on Tyndir. Instead, the five lengthy tracks that comprise the record, the shortest of which clocks in at just over seven-and-a-half minutes, display their progressive bona fides via the melodic complexity driving each of the songs.
For example, on “Hyperion,” which the Vault is stoked to be premiering below, the most striking thing about the song is how thoroughly black metal it sounds even though most of the individual elements within the track are only tangentially blackened at best. Part of the credit for that goes to David Hollingsworth, who can go shriek for shriek with any vocalist in the USBM scene. More than that, though, is how effectively (and unobtrusively) they’re able to layer each of their respective parts. Throw on a decent pair of headphones and listen to “Hyperion” several times, focusing on a different aspect of it each time. Tease apart what guitarists Hollingsworth and Jay Caruso are doing at any given point during the song and you’ll hear that underneath the more traditionally tremolo-picked melody lines are rhythm guitar parts that have more in common with Katatonia’s gothic “dark rock” or even indie rock than black metal. Yet they blend together seamlessly. Zero in on drummer Martii Hill and you’ll realize how rarely he actually plays what you’d expect. He generally goes anything other than blasts where most drummers would opt for sheer aggression, and he uses his double kick in places where others would lay back - in particular, see the Middle Eastern-flavored section in the latter half of the song where is sounds like he’s only playing the double kick (albeit softly) behind the clean guitars. And new bassist Chris Gaye finds his own place somewhere in between, sometimes following the rhythm guitar, and occasionally filling in the spaces where you’d ordinarily expect the drums to be.
In other words, it’s the sort of song that someone could listen to twenty separate times and pick up on a different nuance each time. Or you could simply enjoy it as a stellar example of modern US melodic black metal. Regardless of which approach you prefer, one thing remains constant: multiply your reaction to “Hyperion” by five and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that Tyndir is one of the richest, most satisfying black metal albums of 2017.
When asked about Tyndir, guitarist/vocalist David Hollingsworth replied:
Since the release of Thane, a lot of time has passed, and there have been some big changes with the band. In the last three years a couple of founding members moved on to focus on other projects, but the band continued to write and move forward. We were able to find new members that complemented our existing style while adding new dimensions to the sound. Thematically, this album is about decaying social structures as they exist in discord with the natural world, and their eventual demise. Tyndir is a word that refers to fallowed ground, summarizing the lyrical themes on the album. Going forward, we will be recording material much more quickly, given our newfound line up stability. We’ll play live to support the album, but we’ve already started to write the follow up.
Tyndir will be available on October 27 in a variety of formats from Vendetta Records. It can be preordered here.