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And Now The Owls Are Smiling - The Comforting Grip of Misery

And Now The Owls Are Smiling
The Comforting Grip of Misery
by Gary Hernandez at 06 October 2019, 11:35 AM

AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING is a one-man Atmospheric Black Metal band heralding from rural North Norfolk in England. November 1, one day post Halloween no less, will see the release of the band’s second full-length album, “The Comforting Grip of Misery.” The album comprises seven tracks and runs just under forty-five minutes.

Where to begin? First, if you’re listening to Atmospheric Black Metal (ABM) on purpose then you’ll probably like this album. If you haven’t been exposed to this genre, but enjoy cold desolate landscapes wafting with fog and filled with things that will kill you slowly, it might be your thing. Personally, I like ABM. I find it relaxing, and it’s great music to write by. Of course, I do write dark fiction, so there is that.

Like most ABM albums, “The Comforting Grip of Misery” is low-fi and dialed deep into the grey. There’s the tremolo, melodic guitar work and raspy, indistinguishable vocals. The drum work is fast and monotone, with cymbals that sound like dishes falling on wet tile floors. The songs are long and some tracks have multiple movements. You are not likely to able to decipher any of the lyrics, but if you did, they would be dark and depressing. The melodies are difficult to recall. If you find yourself humming one later in the day, you are probably possessed and should go see a priest or something. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this sound and anyone who is into ABM would have read this paragraph and said, “Hells yeah!”

So, best tracks on the album: Of course, I gotta go with title track, which also features guitar work by Steve Blackwood (OLD CORPSE ROAD), and “Winter’s Elegy,” with folk vocalist Linds Bestwicke, who pretty much does this bit a cappella unless you count the recording of wind as an actual instrument. Her performance is excellent, btw. I am also tempted cite “An Empryreal Spirit Dances Before Me” as a standout track, but I think I am being unduly persuaded by the acoustic opening. There is this phenomenon in metal wherein acoustic interludes give off an air of Prog Metal and everyone just pretends to like it because they’re more or less intimidated. With that said, I’m going with “Our Forest Calls Me Home” as my requisite third favorite track. It leads the album and is a traditional thick slab of ABM.

Downsides? While the final track, “Betrachtungen” (German translation: considerations) is quaint and harmonious and all that, please reference my previous comment on acoustic interludes. Since this entire song is acoustic, it pretty much serves an acoustic interlude to the entire album. It’s not bad, but it’s not why tune into ABM. Altogether, “The Comforting Grip of Misery” is a good album for its genre. Nre does a nice job of capturing the soundscape of solitude and despair which, oddly enough, a lot of people, me included, find quite pleasing. I think it somehow triggers reflection and introspection. Someone with more time and a maybe a fat research grant should look into that.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Our Forest Calls Me Home
2. An Indictment
3. The Comforting Grip of Misery
4. Winter's Elegy
5. An Empyreal Spirit Dances Before Me
6. The Hollowness of Existence
7. Betarachtungen
Lineup:
Nre – All instruments, vocals
Record Label: Clobber Records
     


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