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TikrasTamsusNaktis, November 21st, 2011

Haunting, spine-tingling, chilling, disturbing, creative, hypnotic, and transcendent. All of these words can be used to describe this “album.” If only it was that easy, if only this was just an “album.” The truth of the matter is, this is no regular piece of music. It is far more. It is a journey into another state of mind.

Firstly, it helps if you are in a dark mood while listening to this. This album requires quite a bit of attention and so therefore it is certainly not for all because some may think it is quite exhausting. Personally, it is amazing because of that. Nothing else matters when you listen to this. The music totally consumes you. Dim the lights, light some incense, and drift off into the void of nothingness.

The album is technically just one 41 minute long song that is divided into 4 parts. Each part has its own personality, but they all wrap and coil around each other and work so well together as each “movement” changes into the next. There really isn’t much “metal” to speak of here other than in the second movement, so don’t expect too much pounding doom-laden guitars. BUT, that doesn’t mean there is no pounding. As a matter of fact, a lot of the album just pounds out sound. It is a wall of sound that carries you away. The tracks are very hypnotic and powerful, but honestly they create a sense of peace, a very disturbing sense of peace. It is like nothing is left, just you and this music and the forests, and you feel so small and helpless all of a sudden. As the album progresses you can feel tension in the music. The first track builds up for about 7 minutes and then finally erupts in drum and cymbals. This track then moves into the most "metal" track on the album. It is about 4 minutes long and contains a heavy doom riff with a break in-between and then back to the riff. The third track is truly disturbing, sounding like a void. It really sucks you into itself. Finally, the last track starts off very quietly with soft spoken words and a chilling beat. The track builds up to an explosion of ambient noise and screaming to close out the album. The music certainly fits into the funeral doom metal genre even though there is not too much "guitar doom", but everything about this album spells doom, which is what is really amazing. You could compare Blood of the Black Owl to Celestiial as one of the best comparisons. The music is slow and certainly creates a trance-like state. No wonder the two groups collaborated on a split album. Secondly, one of the members of Celestiial is on this album, so for all intensive purposes this album is not just the workings of Chet Scott.

The music on this album humbles you and makes you realize that we are not the “masters” of this Earth. Mother Earth and Father Sky can destroy us all in a matter of seconds if they wanted to. This music makes you respect Earth and want to leave the “mainstream” and live in peace in the forests and mountains where Christianity doesn’t pollute the minds of the people. This is an ode to all ancient rituals that have now been “banished” because of Christianity and the “mainstream.”

This album really is an ode to our pasts, our original beliefs, and our Pagan heritage. The music is a calling for us to light the fires within us that have not yet totally died. They just need help, a breath of air, or some kindling and they will ignite once again. This album is without a doubt one of the most important and influential pieces of music I have ever listened to and it has changed me, and I thank Blood of the Black Owl for this great ritual, and I hope that you will find it inside you to light the fires within yourselves and rise up out of the ashes.

Strength was the virtue of Paganism; Obedience is the virtue of Christianity - David Hare

Stymieing - 40%

doomknocker, June 30th, 2011

This group caught my eye as a result of their name. This is one of the few times in my life where the name of the act made me check them out versus their style or any other discernable facts. I went in not knowing what I’d be getting into, musically, and what these guys had in store for unsuspecting listeners.

I got to the end of the disc just as confused as when I went into it…

I really have no idea how to describe the…music. Metallic ambience? A corpse-painted Controlled Bleeding? I guess to put it simply, this given album’s sound is "disturbing". If this group’s intention was to create a shudder-inducing atmosphere of an impurely inky darkness, then by all forms of deity they’ve done so to successful(?) ends. And I must say, for as fucked up as this album is, I can’t say I really got into it. Metallic in a very broad sense, there’s more (or at times less) going on for it with each passing track, each one different from the one preceding it. It seems, to this listener at least that the overall musical product is less a cohesive gathering of notes and chord progressions and more of an out of control, amorphous black blob swallowing all in its path. It takes a keen ear, it seems, to truly appreciate what the band is trying to do, and while I applaud their ability to combine twisted guitar usage, punishing percussion, and strange synthetic ditties into the dripping black madness that seems to be what "A Banishing Ritual" is all about. Whether it’s the grinding hell of "Intent (Movement 1)", the more upbeat riffery of "The Statement of Will "(Movement 2)" or to the pitch-black conclusion of "A Banishing Ritual (Movement 5)", this Blood of the Black Owl group are able to tap into the demented imagination necessary to make this kind of style work.

So in the end this was WAY too fucked up for me to enjoy, I’m afraid. I totally respect these guys’ attempt to bring deep-rooted fears to light in a musical sense, but I guess I like my music with, well, MUSIC. Sorry, guys.

Offer your spirit - 87%

autothrall, March 16th, 2010

Blood of the Black Owl's previous meditation, A Feral Spirit, was a haze inducing ritual of both beauty and terror, as extreme as it could be tranquil, and really promoted the band to the forefront of our metal scene's peripheral artists, capable of a vision far outside the status quo even in such eclectic genres as black, doom, drone or folk metal. There is simply not much else out there that can capture the repressed spirit of native America in musical form, and place such a tax on the soul of the listener. For A Banishing Ritual, the reins seem to have been tightened a notch, partly due to the fact it consists of a single track in four 'movements', all of which combine for 40 minutes of intense immersion that can drown out your day.

Chet W. Scott (of Ruhr Hunter and many other experimental projects) returns here with collaborators James Woodhead and Daniel Ellis Harrod for a lengthy, disturbing journey. Into the trials of jarring strings, black swelling ambiance and chant-like, ritual vocal we are taken with the first of the tracks motions, 'Intent', which is possibly the most fascinating of the album. "The Statement of Will (Movement II)", which occupies only about 4 minutes of "A Banishing Ritual", opens with an extremely basal, raw doom metal rhythm that is soon bypassed by a montage of eerie woodwinds, ringing strings and carnal vocals, only to return to the guitars for the transition into "Chant of the Captured Spirit (Movement III)", which is the most ominous of the album's stages, 11 minutes of slowly escalating noise, warbled voices and warped synthesizers that tide over into trilling flutes and soothing, daemonic whispers. "The Final Banishing (Movement IV)" grows from this into sparse, further fucked whispers that are cut through with occasional jaunts onto an acoustic guitar, distant shrill synths that emulate the whipping winds of perdition and a climactic finale which feels like being hunted through a cold Northwestern night by regressive cannibal savages.

Like any successful work of its kind, A Banishing Ritual sucks the listener into a vortex of the unfamiliar and then peels away each layer of sanity from his/her stiff mind. I didn't actually appreciate it quite so much as its predecessor A Feral Spirit, but that is partly owed to the single track format...I simply didn't feel compelled by its entirety as I did with many of the songs off the prior release. Regardless, it's highly engrossing and I am very eager to experience this when hiking season begins for me in the summer. A wondrous, though not always pleasant soundtrack to the empty places of the wild (and the soul) untouched, at least temporarily, by Quiznos, Verizon and Lady Gaga.


Black owl banished into white - 87%

drengskap, March 14th, 2010

A Banishing Ritual is the third full-length release from the Seattle-based band Blood Of The Black Owl (BOTBO hereafter), following the eponymous debut album of 2007 and 2008’s A Feral Spirit, as well as the split LP with Celestiial, also released in 2008. As with the split LP, BOTBO’s founder and guiding spirit Chet Scott joined forces for this album with James Woodhead (who also plays with Chet in The Elemental Chrysalis), and lyricist Daniel Ellis Harrod. Chet and James Woodhead are jointly responsible for the musical composition of the album, with James’ contribution including analogue electric organ, guitar vocals and drums, and Chet’s including lead vocals, flutes, horns, dulcimer, various hand percussion and thunder gong, in addition to baritone guitar and kit drums.

A Banishing Ritual, subtitled ‘(Into White)’, is intended to be listened to as a single 41-minute piece, but it’s sequenced in the CD as four distinct tracks or ‘movements’, entitled ‘Intent’, ‘The Statement of Will’, ‘Chant of the Captured Spirit’ and ‘The Final Banishing’, and the album sleeve assigns a rune to each movement, namely Ansuz, Jera, Hagalaz and Uruz – the currents connected with these runes provide a key to understanding the intention and energy flow of the album. So, we begin with ‘Intent’ and the rune Ansuz, the rune of Odin, of divine inspiration and utterance. Huge swells of gong reverberate and roll around a hermetically sealed soundscape, producing an atmosphere of containment and trapped, coiled energy awaiting release. Out of the enveloping shroud of metallic roar, a dissonant, hypnotically repetitive dulcimer line slowly asserts itself, with massive tribal drumbeats and rattlesnake shaker percussion bursting out the mix at the eight-minute mark, laying down a ritualistic rhythmic foundation for a keening, poignant native American flute melody that gives way to a vocal section, which in turn segues immediately into the next movement.

‘The Statement of Will’ is given the rune Jera, the rune of cyclicity and harvest, the wheel of the year and the cosmos, and this, at under four minutes by far the shortest section of A Banishing Ritual, is a massively heavy piece of funeral doom, a slow, crushing guitar riff imposing its authority over solid, muscular drum work. There’s a quiet middle section of gliding flute notes, sparse, solemnly intoned vocals and background drone atmospherics, before the guitar and drums surge back, a stately, even decorous, twang arpeggio picking its way over the bedrock of riff. Again, there’s a sudden transition to the next track.

‘Chant of the Captured Spirit’ is assigned the rune Hagalaz, a baleful rune of wrenching, catastrophic change and dark feminine sexual energy, and this movement can really be considered the dark heart of A Banishing Ritual, with a claustrophobic atmosphere created by a sludgy, panting, respiratory beat and melodramatic, almost gothic organ phrases. The drugged, enchained feel of this track, especially with the addition of Chet’s growled vocals, background shrieks, wailing horn blasts and deep, grinding guitar, recalled Children Of God-era Swans for me more than anything else – a comparison that’s never occurred to me before in connection with BOTBO or other Chet Scott projects, although in fact the degrees of separation make it clear that this isn’t such a stretch. Jarboe was in Swans, she later did a collaborative album with Neurosis, and BOTBO’s slow, acoustically-inflected doom metal is often compared to Neurosis. Even the lyrics of ‘Chant of the Captured Spirit’ could come from one of Michael Gira’s blackly cathartic psychodramas of abjection and domination:

I will stab and cut… I consume your hate… I exert my will.

After the ‘nigredo’ or alchemical blackening of the third movement, the album’s conclusion ‘The Final Banishing’ makes good on the album’s ‘Into White’ subtitle, introducing some elements of ascension, transcendence and regeneration, though remaining firmly rooted to the earth, as indicated by the choice of the rune Uruz, the rune of the primal, taurine strength of the aurochs, a kind of prehistoric bison, often invoked in healing. Softly strummed guitar and whispered vocals offer a space for calmness and introspection after the churning turbulence of ‘Chant of the Captured Spirit’, before reverberating multiple layers of vocals, distant chthonic groans and extended disembodied howls imbue the track with an eerie, phantasmal atmosphere. In its final five minutes, ‘The Final Banishing’ develops into a kind of swirling psychedelic dirge, darkly glittering organ notes vertiginously swooping downwards over pounding drums and Chet Scott’s shrieked vocals, the track ending on a soaring, expansive high note with rippling tremolo guitar and high, clean, vocal chants from James Woodhead.

A Banishing Ritual is a deeply heartfelt and personal work – so much so, indeed, that according to the Bindrune press release, it ‘at one time was even considered as too close to the heart to release for public consumption.’ This is music that’s just about as far removed as it’s possible to be from the commercial mainstream or any consideration of ‘giving the fans what they want’, and of course one consequence of this lack of accessibility is that a lot of people aren’t going to appreciate or want to engage with this work. In particular, some of those who enjoyed BOTBO’s previous releases may be disappointed by the relative lack of overt doom metal in A Banishing Ritual – although ‘The Statement of Will’ is heavy enough to satisfy any headbanger, it accounts for less than 10% of the album. A Banishing Ritual demands patient, repeated listens to allow its subtle strength to fully manifest, but the rewards are there for those who persevere with this unique work.

The album was mastered by Mell Dettmer, well-known for her work with other Seattle and Cascadian bands including Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room and Fauna, and it’s presented in a six-panel black and grey digipack sleeve. A Banishing Ritual brings to a close the first chapter of BOTBO, but it’s important to note that this is, contrary to some reports, not going to be the last BOTBO album – the project is merely in hiatus as Chet turns his attention to his other main project, Ruhr Hunter. And two other pieces recorded during the Banishing Ritual sessions, ‘Minutiae’ and ‘Hibernation’, which at the time of writing can be heard in an unfinished state on the BOTBO MySpace page, are slated for future release on a vinyl split with Jaems Woodhead’s solo project, At The Head Of The Woods.

This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine:

Blood of the Black Owl - A Banishing Ritual - 75%

ThrashManiacAYD, March 6th, 2010

Another Bindrune Recording, and another mind-altering hypnotic experience. Seattle residents Blood of the Black Owl here on third album "A Banishing Ritual" practice a sound both punishing and cathartic to listen to in a style nestled somewhere amongst the genres of black ambient, funeral doom and drone, and with one song spanning it's 41-minute duration it's no easy ride, having taken me a number of listens to fully comprehend the spiritual and evocative meanings locked up within it.

The press release states this album as an "outpouring of emotions and [a] cleansing of past stains on ones life"; a description that while more pertinent to the feelings of it's creators can still be viewed empathetically in the deeply emotive and transcendental layers across the album. Beginning with a long droning introduction and the sound of faint guitar strumming coming ever more into the mix against a backdrop of radiation-like noise, an invoking sense of terror is hard to avoid as the piece slowly comes into life, implanting all the while images in my mind of vast, dark natural landscapes being overcome by forces too great for it's own good.

This tone eventually changes around the 8-minute mark to include both industrial sounding drumming as well as the first evidence of a discernible rhythm from some folk-sounding percussion that is as difficult to describe as it can be to listen to. As the song moves onwards we are introduced to a flute-like woodwind instrument and echoing, cavernous vocals before after 13 minutes the first signs of 'metal' appear with the drumming taking a more common shape behind a bass-heavy pure doom metal riff, showcasing the variety of influences that have gone into BotBO's sound. Direct comparisons is difficult in the explaining of this but with it's ranges from Sunn O))) drone, Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine and Asunder ponderous funeral doom, Jotunspor nihilistic ambience and the strained folk soundings of Wardruna, "A Banishing Ritual" has the potential to appeal to a wide cross-section of extreme music fans as an alternative and experimental album with huge depth in scope and sound.

The last 25 minutes exude a dissonant spooky sound with the style set similar to the droning soundscape on show earlier taken to the fore. In the midst of losing all sense of time the repeated, distorted vocal lines of "I consume your hate", reminding me of Celtic Frost's "Monotheist" record, suggest a sense of painful release for those behind the Blood of the Black Owl exterior as the minutes crawl by, slowly shifting the patterns of the music blissfully ignorant of the need for any defined song structures or tempos to engage the listener in. This dirge in tempo is obviously not going to be for everyone, and neither is "A Banishing Ritual" listening suited for all occasions, but it's abstract nature and vast levels of inertia have made for me a subtly powerful listen and an album I would recommend for those with a tendency for left-field musical choices and the need for musical accompaniment when one is feeling morose and alone.

Originally written for