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Blood of the Black Owl > A Feral Spirit > Reviews
Blood of the Black Owl - A Feral Spirit

Carrion carried on the scent - 90%

autothrall, October 28th, 2009

The s/t debut from this Chet W. Scott project was a bleak and wonderfully (or should I say horrifically) realized effort of blackened Northwestern doom, drone, ambient, and a dash of folk. A breath of fresh air, regardless of how much carrion is carried on the scent.

A Feral Spirit is another meditative journey into the grim face of nature, as wholly American as it is disturbing. "Spell of the Elk" is an opening chant set to percussion and subtle ambient synths, with a few droning noises. "Crippling of Age" brings tortured black vocals, paced acoustic drums and a hypnotic wall of fuzzy distorted guitars. A terrifying track, yet it breaks for some scintillating guitars after the halfway point. "He Who Walked Away from the Fire & Laughed as He Bled" is a more psychedelic journey combining all the elements of the first two tracks. "Void" is a black cycle with some clever pipe organ segments dispersed within. "The Melancholy Article" is almost like a super minimal trip hop piece with flutes, horrid poetry and loads of atmosphere. "Unattainable Vistas of Our Remembrance" is a desolate, driven track with a great crescendo of sadly melodic guitars. "Forest of Decrepitude" and "Inter-Weaving the Beyond" are more typical of funeral doom/drone pieces, yet far more interesting than the majority of music in this sub-sub-genre. "Journey of the Plague Year" ends the album, just as hauntingly as it began.

In the end I enjoyed this more than the debut. While that was a pretty colossal effort, this feels slightly more fleshed out and I truly enjoyed the diversity within. It's a beautiful record from start to finish, a hypnotism that is guaranteed to steer your mind to places of longing, into the empty wilderness of both the physical and cerebral world. There is not much else out there like this, it's very much worth owning if you are a fan of any of its musical components. One of the most unique and entrancing 'metal' entities in the US today.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Wrest tripping balls - 93%

Lustmord56, February 3rd, 2009

Originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas

Chet Scott’s 2006 self titled debut was an excellent doomy, ambient, almost stoner take on depressive Pacific Northwest, one man black metal, giving the scene an injection of creativity that strayed from typical depressive Wrest and Malefic worship. And the follow up, while taking the same elements, delivers an even more tribal, ritualistic, organic and almost Native American take on the genre.

While my ‘Wrest tripping balls in the forest’, still stands as an apt comparison, Chet Scott appears to have taken some hits from a peace pipe and connected with the spirit world as well as injecting the expected ambience, shoegaze and doom into his blackened, transcendental musical outlet. If Brown Jenkins was Cthulhu’s blackened drone mouthpiece, then Blood of the Black Owl is the spiritual angst of mother nature and The Great Spirit.

Fuzzed out guitars lope and drone amid tribal simplistic drums laced with injections of organic ambiance and Chet’s grizzled chants (plying lyrics written by Daniel Ellis Harrod) for 63 minutes of introspective, mystical music . From lengthy introduction of the chanted “Spell of the Elk” which leads right into the stern march of “Crippling of Age” through the hypnotic “He Who Walked Away From the Fire & Laughed As He Bled” (the section that starts at 3:43 is mesmerizing), steady march of “Void” (which is initially the album’s harshest track before the church organ drenched mid section and ritualistic closure), to delicate and somber acoustics of “The Melancholy Article”, the album is a truly captivating and hypnotic journey into another spiritual realm without spiraling into depression. Just listen to “Unattainable Vistas of Our Remembrances” and rangy closer “Journey of the Plague Year” to hear the deft evolution in the chord structures and progressions from malevolence to a more introspective ambivalence that Blood of the Black Owl has subtly made between albums.

Less malevolent, paranoid and ‘icky’ than the debut, the aptly named A Feral Spirit seems to be a more deliberate, tempered and personal record that looks to heal wounds and soul search rather than open them up and drag you into an emotional abyss. And that is a welcome development to the genre, and I hope the development continues for the next album.

Not a mystic; just someone with silly hair. - 70%

caspian, November 27th, 2008

It’s probably because I just heard the terrific split that this dude/band did with Celestiial, but this isn’t quite as amazing as I thought it would be- or as this Chet fellow seems to think it is. It’s a competent thing with some nice moments, sure, but for the most part it sounds like someone making the cheesiest naturalistic music they can and combining it with some black/doom sorta stuff.

“Spell of the Elk” is a good enough example of why this record falls short; as far as pretentious, boring-as-all-hell intros go, this attempt at ritual ambient is up there with the best of them. Long and somewhat pointless flute drones, a long spoken narration/ritual/thing that is completely unnecessary. It’s unintentionally hilarious, too, when he names a few animals in a row (We are the wolf.. The coyote… The Crow… The Raven) and after each name, one horrible sample of a few wolves howling and the like gets repeated a few times. The “Guess which animal” game in reverse, or something.

Things take an immediate improvement when the pretention gets dropped (or at least, becomes harder to hear) and the massive black/doom riffs come in. It’s massive, it’s abrasive and somewhat unsettling. A few riffs are repeated, it’s often simple enough eighth-note stuff but it’s pretty trancey and decent enough in general. Quite harsh and unforgiving; a far better way to musically describe nature then to bring out the pan flutes again.

The only real mainstay throughout the album would be the rather annoying vocals. Covered in delay and with a rather annoying growled/spoken tone, they don’t really achieve anything else except for annoyance, although I’ll concede that the dude is passionate about whatever he’s raving about. Walls of black/doom guitar mix rather well with gentle clean riffs and pan flute action; and the song writing and track listing keeps the two extremes meshed in a somewhat unpredictable way. There’s no doubt that while BotBO are often pretty overbearing in their “serious about forests” way, they do know their song writing 101. “He who walked away from the fire” is one pretty good example of great juxtaposition between the bipolar aspects of this band; it’s just a shame that the vocals don’t change around a bit too.

I guess the main problem I have with this is that while it’s all solidly executed, there’s always something keeping it from being excellent or genuinely enjoyable. The riffs are marred by the vocals, the clean parts marred by the vocals or the useless pan flutes, the whole thing marred by a bunch of pretension and heavy handed attempts at atmosphere, For every sweet bit there’s a good 10 or 20 other parts that could’ve been so much better if only the drum programming wasn‘t so average and sterile. Or if it wasn’t way overlong. Or if the lyrics weren’t so bad. So on and so forth.

This guy obviously has some talent; his split with Celestiial was excellent and I hear his first album was great. This just never really gets enjoyable; it’s too pretentious and there’s just too many problems with the music to take this good to bad. People who are big into hippie type stuff might find things to enjoy here, but overall you might be better off avoiding this and ordering said split.

Fruits of the forest - 90%

drengskap, November 21st, 2008

A Feral Spirit is the second album from Blood Of The Black Owl, following 2007’s eponymous debut album, also released on Bindrune Recordings. There was also a long-deleted three-track demo CD-R, and a split 12” with Celestiial was released this year.


Blood Of The Black Owl (BOTBO hereafter) was originally a solo project of Chet W. Scott, also of Ruhr Hunter and The Elemental Chrysalis, but for the split with Celestiial, Chet was joined by James Woodhead and Daniel Ellis Harrod. However, for A Feral Spirit all music was performed by Chet Scott, with lyrics being written by Daniel Ellis Harrod. Evidently, these recordings predate the recordings for the split release, but have ended up being released later.


A Feral Spirit opens, though, with ‘Spell Of The Elk’, a track credited to Ruhr Hunter, with both the song title and performer’s name given in runic characters. Since both Ruhr Hunter and BOTBO were at this point solo projects of Chet Scott, this is a fine distinction to make, although in fact the two projects have markedly different sounds, and ‘Spell Of The Elk’ undoubtedly sounds more like Ruhr Hunter than BOTBO. Long, lonely flute notes resonate across a desolate soundscape, with rumbles of thunder and low drums in the background, as Chet intones the lyrics in a dramatic, growled spoken-word style:


We are the wolf…
The coyote…
The crow and the raven…
We are the earth…


The mist-shrouded atmosphere of this song reminds me of ‘The Sower & The Sown’, a track from Ruhr Hunter’s 2002 album, Torn Of This.


After this introduction, it’s time for BOTBO to be unleashed. For those with no previous experience of Chet Scott’s various musical projects, as well as those of other artists associated with the Glass Throat label, the sound of BOTBO is quite difficult to describe or categorise. One press release for A Feral Sprit describes the music as ‘a primitive fusion of slow tempo Earth Metal & Woodland Ritualistic Doom’, which gives some indication of what to expect. As with all of Chet Scott’s recordings, a large variety of instruments are employed on A Feral Spirit, including electric and acoustic guitar, electric organ, drums, various hand percussion like shakers and rattles, gongs, flutes, horns, ocarinas and field recordings.


‘Crippling Of Age’ segues straight in from ‘Spell Of The Elk’, marking the transition from one project to the other with a violent assault of discordant, black metal guitar and roaring vocals, as abrupt and jarring as the sudden descent of a raptor on its prey. As with all basically slow metal with acoustic accompaniment, there’s an evident debt to Neurosis, but BOTBO also sound something like contemporary funeral doom bands such as Nortt and Grívf. This is far from straightforward doom metal, though – it’s more accurate to say that doom is one of many elements in Chet’s musical craft.


‘He Who Walked Away From The Fire & Laughed As He Bled’ opens with mellow prog-rock and delicate guitar arpeggios providing an intriguing contrast to the hoarse, rasping vocals, but then around the midpoint of the song, these elements succumb to a wall of fuzzy riffing, before the two blend into a powerfully elegiac trudge towards the end. ‘Void’ provides some of the album’s harshest moments, with the first few minutes of anguished screamed vocals and cataclysmically clashing guitar chords inviting comparison to black metal acts like Xasthur and Leviathan. This leads into a melodic section of church organ and spoken vocals, before this in turn gives way to sustained black ambient drones and shaken percussion. The harrowing lyrics of ‘Void’ depict the seductive nihilism of drug addiction.


‘The Melancholy Article’ is much gentler, remaining essentially within the prog-rock parameters of the opening section of ‘He Who Walked Away From The Fire…’, even sounding a bit new-agey with its smooth, soothing guitar and flutes, although Chet’s growling vocals prevent a wholesale descent into whale-hugging.


‘Forest Of Decrepitude’ stands out for its memorable, Sabbathesque guitar hook, which sticks in the memory long after the song’s hypnotic, trudging beat and eerie siren-like cadences have faded away. The closing track, ‘Journey Of The Plague Year’, is largely acoustic and quite subdued, although, after a Ruhr Hunter-style passage of Native American flute and throat singing, it ends with some emphatically doomy riffing, embellished with descending keyboard lines.


In terms of comparisons to Chet Scott’s other work, it seems evident that BOTBO has become a depository for the darker and more aggressive tendencies in Ruhr Hunter. Whereas early Ruhr Hunter works involved a lot of black ambient noise, the most recent Ruhr Hunter album, 2006’s Moss & Memory, was more tranquil. If Ruhr Hunter is now chiefly concerned with a harmonious communion with nature, BOTBO acknowledges, and even celebrates, the starker, harsher, more predatory and, yes, feral aspects of the natural world. But of course harmony and conflict, creation and destruction, are artificial constructs of the human point of view. It’s all one and the same to the blind, amoral forces of nature. Whether a lamb is born or a forest burns, the balance is restored. It would seem to follow from this that Chet’s various different musical projects should steadily move towards convergence – a totalising, holistic vision of nature in all its myriad aspects, from the most beautiful to the most savage. But maybe this work is too much for one lifetime.


For now though, the night is over, the black owl’s flight is done, and as the rays of the rising sun filter through the dense tree canopy to the forest floor far below, the predators retreat to the shadows until it’s time to set out on the hunt once more. Life goes on. And whilst A Feral Spirit offers a more coherent and integrated vision than the first BOTBO album, I feel like Chet hasn’t got to where he’s headed with all this nature mysticism just yet. We’re on a path, but not at the heart of the forest.


A Feral Spirit comes beautifully presented in a gatefold digipack sleeve bearing images of skulls, runes and bones. Concurrent with the release of the CD version of A Feral Spirit by Bindrune Recordings, there is a 1000-copy limited-edition double LP version available from the English label Aurora Borealis, a small number of which come with an elk-hide patch hand-crafted by Chet Scott under ritual conditions and blessed with sage smoke. There is also a new Blood Of The Black Owl album entitled A Banishing Ritual currently in preparation, which should see the light of day in 2009.


This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine:
www.judaskissmagazine.co.uk