Even though things are starting to heat up around here, I can’t find it within myself to say no to the prospect of a cold atmospheric black metal album. Bonebranches, the debut album by Bloodbark, is one hell of a listen. I won’t beat around the bush here, this record is something else.
Bonebranches is more than than your average atmospheric black metal album filled with distant shrieks, tremolos, blast-beats and bad production, though these elements are all present (minus the poor production). There’s so much more than that on offer here. This album has many different layers for listeners to peel back and examine, and one listen certainly isn’t enough to get a good grasp on all the different moving parts. This album’s greatest strength is its multi-textured nature – its complexities and nuances serve to make it a challenging yet rewarding listen.
The album’s opener, “Eyeless Winter,” gives listeners a good taste of what’s to come. It opens with clean piano, accompanied by lush, weepy orchestral synths. Before long, a heartbreaking tremolo melody is laid overtop, and it’s without a doubt one of the saddest, most heart-wrenching melodies I’ve heard in a good long while. The song builds and builds before ultimately climaxing in a burst of frenzied tremolos and orchestral flair.
“Ferns and Roads” opens with a much more subdued intro which lasts roughly three and a half minutes. It’s a slow, emotional buildup that starts the monolithic, seventeen minute track off right. Further down the line, we’re treated to some synths that bring to mind a more dramatic Elderwind, and riff work reminiscent of Embers-era Evergreen Refuge. For those who have yet to listen to these bands, rest assured – these are both compliments of the highest order.
The album’s last track, “As Wolves” is also its brightest. Though Bloodbark don’t go as far as playing in Deafhaven-esque major chords, they manage to bring as sense of hopefulness and wonderment to the song. Complete with misty-eyed orchestration and even a little tastefully-done spoken word, it’s a great conclusion to the album, and feels like a perfect summary of everything that came before it.
The album clocks in at a lean forty minutes, but since it’s spread across three fairly different-sounding tracks, it feels a little longer than it is. It never overstays its welcome, though. When the album ends, there’s always the temptation to reach for the replay button, which speaks very highly of the strength of the material on Bonebranches.
Despite the fact that Bonebranches is a debut album, there’s a maturity and grace present in the songwriting that suggests to me that this isn’t the first rodeo for the mysterious, unnamed entities behind Bloodbark. Whatever the case, this album is a must-hear. It’s elegant, soothing, intense and harsh all at once. It’s a journey of a listen and I hope to hear many great things from Bloodbark in the future.