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Where Seagulls Dare - 84%

Five_Nails, April 28th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

There has been a common dichotomous double-think in black metal music between the aspirations of the individual and the empowering energy of the horde. This latest movement of post-black and the ubiquity of the internet has grown a more united culture of fans and musicians in this metal underground where the nobility of standing alone has conflicted as well as combined with the spirit and promise of a massive musical movement.

How the individual separates himself from the many has always been a theme in metal, whether looked at as an alienation from the outside world or as a way to find brotherhood in the hidden corners of society. In this vein, A Flock Named Murder shows this dichotomy with its artwork of a lone owl occupying the cover of its debut album, 'An Appointed Time'. Though easier to imagine a raven as part of massed flight when coming to grips with the band's name, this ambiguity in depicting an owl scanning a snowy plain shows that though its feather may be different, the noble sense of this band's purpose may be of that forthright inclination towards greatness that many promise but few deliver. Similar to how the members of Easy Company saw their struggles in liberating a country from the crucible of fire during Ike's “Great Crusade" in World War II, A Flock Named Murder seems to say that “we stand alone together” and that such various and separate personal pieces, the many struggles of existence, are what ensures the evolution and exuberance of its contributors to this culture.

Through the gorgeous gradual rise of rhythm with a flowing ethereal riff, as though being caught in a wind current and propelled skyward through a tornadic microburst, 'An Appointed Time' opens with the courtesy of calming winds before clouding the atmosphere with a violent storm. Treble begins scattering at the apogee, the “Elusive Nature” of tempestuous maelstrom crashes like thunder and blasts like lightning in offshot harmonic expression with guitars stealing the scene in soloing before falling again into the dripping twangs of distorted notes lost in fog and flecked by disparate drumming droplets. Screaming into the wind, the vocals elucidate on a decaying expanse as the chaos of chewing maggots and breakdown of complex structures ushers in the revival of a field of battle long after the blood has run. Seeking a timelessness in its lyrics and the survival of a spirit long after one's demise, A Flock Named Murder experiences existence in moments as well as aeons. In this time, its observation of horror as well as of how readily nature is to move on from such struggle, mirrors the unusual yet also impotent ability of the Three Eyed Raven, a sage able only the intervene in the perilous affairs of a world it observes from a distance lest it ink with more blood a tale that has already dried on the page. This inability to change things, merely to observe, allows “seeds of animosity” to grow in the hearts of the restless leading to release when one is finally able to escape the “vague dreams entwine[d] with lucid memories” and finally find solace, “forever diminishing in reflection.”

Where an end was so present in “Elusive Nature”, the decay of its leading riff becomes the anthemic theme from which “Without Passage” flows, its consequence channeled in the currents to articulate its struggle to grow and achieve the intensity of a blast and then fall into the classic soloing representation of blues that so intoxicates a metallic rhythm. “Without Passage” is A Flock Named Murder's own journey as they choose “the path where no-one goes,” its music beholding a timeless expanse relating past and present in harmonious synthesis rather than in chaotic conflict.

Wailing arpeggios clamor over each other in a filthy and unhinged expression of anguish in “The Divide”, its sloshing resonance soaking the soundscape with shrill solemnity. The blasting eruption, a daunting change halfway through the track, kicks the anthem up a notch while changing the anguish to anger, leading the guitars to explore their lament and secure a surer footing from which to launch vast variations of the structure, finding fun in a song that at once seemed so sad and now has become a celebration of its stick-to-itiveness. Such resolute realization results in ringing guitars, rupturus rhythmic rattling, and an ambitious achievement melding the ecstasy of soloing seventies guitar power and jamming improvisation with meaty metal majestically moving these modern musicians.

Harmonious synthesis of past and present arrives again as “Submerge” and “Sky Harvest” reprise their roles as the closing tracks to a new album. As dejected as the “Our Fortress is Burning” series but employing some of the variety that made “The Melancholy Spirit” move so meaningfully, the finality of these tracks ensure the eye on the past is as focused as that on the future, coming full circle to understand the necessity of struggle, the wrestling with growth that brings about one's successful rebirth. Rather than embrace the solemnity of its music to a fault and envisage it in the form a raven depicting death, A Flock Named Murder seeks to transcend its form, to embody the wisdom of the owl. Rather than making the finality of joining the murder its sole goal, and through an restless and distressing hour of excruciating evolution, this flock has achieved a new consciousness and is now hatched from its clutch. An efficacious onslaught of emotion exudes exuberance while ensuring mystery blurs back the enlightenment that this band hopes to embrace. Hopefully the evolution to come unlocks the world within but for now the raw expression put forth by this band stands as a strong show of how far these musicians have come.