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And Now The Owls Are Smiling – Epitaph

And Now The Owls Are Smiling
Epitaph
by Gary Hernandez at 28 August 2022, 8:43 PM

On September 2, 2022, AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING released their fourth and final installment of the project via Clobber Records. The album is aptly named “Epitaph.” For those late to the project, AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING is an Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal endeavor of multi-instrumentalist Nre is based in rural North Norfolk, UK. And while the pictures I have seen of North Norfolk, or the Fenlands, are idyllic and rather peaceful, the landscape which Nre describes through his music is bleak and unsettling. In its own peculiar way though it is also comforting, much like melancholy can be comforting. This message comes through by simply scanning the project’s albums: “Desolation,” “The Comforting Grip of Misery,” “Dirges,” and now “Epitaph.”

When approaching this project, which in total spans six years, I recommend taking time to experience each of the four albums. It’s not required, of course—each album stands well on its own—but getting the full context adds texture and nuance. You also get to pick up on recurring strands like the “Winter’s Elegy” pieces featuring Linds Bestwicke. You also get to absorb the full arc of the tetralogy which ultimately resolves the reason the owls are indeed smiling.

The album comprises eight tracks, including one cover, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (RADIOHEAD), and spans over 51 minutes. Production values are intentionally scratchy and lo-fi, evoking a dire grayscape. Performance wise, I can’t say Nre comes across as an exceptional musician or vocalist, but he is an excellent songwriter.

There is one interlude, “L’appel Du Vide,” though it may be too long to constitute a true interlude. Also, since the album ends with a cover, “L’appel Du Vide” is effectively the last true track of the album (and the series) . . . so, yeah, maybe not an actual interlude. As an acoustic instrumental, however, it does stand out.

My favorite tracks are the more acoustic ones—namely ““Winter’s Elegy Part II” and the aforementioned “L’appel Du Vide” (trans: the call of the void). Both of these tracks offer a faint respite from the more discordant tracks. Of the heavier tracks, my list of standouts are “Monochrome Visions of What Life Used to Be,” also a video (see link below), and “The Miserable Grip of Comfort” which features some chilling field recordings and spoken word. The oscillating tempo and tone of this track also worked really well, including the final dismal cry.

Each installment of the AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING tetralogy is unique. Of the four, “Epitaph” is probably the most balanced. It is raw and dissonant, but also poignant and moving—like the grim edges of isolation just on the border of madness. “Epitaph” is not for everyone, but for Atmospheric Black Metal fans it’s worth the time and investment. All together, “Epitaph” is a fitting closure to dark journey known as AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.  Every Day Another Piece of Me Is Removed
2.  Monochrome Visions of What Life Used to Be
3.  In Darkness, Light Candles So the Demons Can Find Me
4.  Winter's Elegy Part II
5.  The Miserable Grip of Comfort
6.  There Is No Laughter Here
7.  L’appel Du Vide
8.  Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead cover
Lineup:
Nre – All instruments, vocals, and drum programming
Record Label: Clobber Records
     


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Edited 03 February 2023
 

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