Blood of the Black Owl’s early albums were founded almost entirely in a blackened doom metal aesthetic, with crushing guitars and hair-raising vocals. Yet the project’s mastermind, Chet W. Scott, is also a supernaturally talented multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for experimental, ambient, and folk music.
Over time these influences have come to permeate Blood of the Black Owl. Album number three, A Banishing Ritual, was the heaviest yet, despite largely abandoning distorted guitars. Given the ever richer sonic palette that Chet has allowed himself, it should come as no surprise that Light the Fires! transcends genre boundaries to assume a state of pure art.
Light the Fires! makes relatively restrained use of distortion and other trappings of extreme metal, yet retains a palpable, lumbering, momentum. The heavy elements become more prominent as the recording progresses, yet at no point does the album feel contrived. It is Chet Scott’s intent that brings such crushing intensity, and that power dominates even in moments of tranquility.
The opening track, “Caller of Spirits,” seduces us into a whirling vortex of runic throat singing, eerie drones, and untamed spirit. The track deploys successive layering of horns, chants, rattles, and drums, and resonates with Chet’s unique Heathen-Native American fusion. It is at once placid, stately, untamed, and utterly compelling; a profoundly evocative entrance.
For me the second track, “Wind Eye,” stands out for its impeccable electric-folk composition and simply perfect bass playing. Clean electric guitars sing like voices, and a stunning acoustic guitar solo announces a surprisingly concise climax. The mood is dark, certainly, but somehow also resonates with joy.
“Rise & Shine” continues where “Wind Eye” leaves off, woven from clean electric guitars, beautiful bass playing, and Blood of the Black Owl’s trademark heavy-handed drumming. The pace it sets is slow and winding, but if there is weariness here, it is tempered by resolute strength. Spiraling counter-melodies conjure otherworldly nocturnal vistas: stars shining on still water.
Half way through the song the tone changes. Broken chords and a more forceful tempo speak to a different instinct, which in turn transmutes toward dark but hopeful invocations of healing. The music touches an innate animistic urge that all too often slumbers beneath the armor of technocracy or dogma…touches that urge, and nourishes it powerfully.
From the untamed joy of “Rise & Shine” we plunge into more vintage Blood of the Black Owl with “Sundrojan.” Down-tuned guitars, guttural vocals, and earth-spirit fury wrench us from our reverie. The piece conveys a grim determination, and the chorus is tempered by an invocation of new life. The song imparts some valuable dramatic tension to the album’s trajectory.
“Two Ravens at the Tree Line” returns to the clean guitars, prominent bass, and doomy drums, but retains the extreme vocals. The contrast of tranquil and aggressive textures works perfectly, evoking forests from some primeval time out of time. The final minutes of the song progress into an epic journey amid the ancient boughs, a movement that is felt deep in the bone.
The sound of running water introduces us to the second last track, “Soil Magicians.” Chet’s whispered calls to the magic of the stream send thrills down the spine. The song uses contrasting arrangements to conjure contradictory emotions from seemingly simple melodies. The poise and grace of this music is simply awe-inspiring.
As with every song on Light the Fires!, “Soil Magicians” resonates with gratitude to the natural world for its beauty and redemptive power, even as it hovers over the dissonance and fear that is also part of that natural order. The wild samples, the percussion, the vocals, all conspire to dissolve the listener into what could only be described as an embodied-out-of-body-experience.
As the track moves into distorted guitar territory, the vocals reach a pained tremor. Yet the earlier currents of grandeur remain, though transmuted into a far more grim countenance. It is an amazing trip.
Final track, “Disgust and the Horrible Realization of Apathy,” is a fittingly epic conclusion to the proceedings, binding dark horizons and crushing weight into a powerful whole. It gathers the whole album into a gloomy demise, and leaves the listener dazed, yet with an urgent desire to press “play” once more.
Light the Fires! represents a creative artist at his sublime best. Chet W. Scott has consistently outdone himself with each Blood of the Black Owl release, and there is simply nothing else out there that even approaches his unique and inspired vision. It is to be admired for its musical inventiveness, but also for the ultimately uplifting tone of its message and meaning.
***BLACK MAGAZINE GERMANY (Translated)***
Pursues one falls on the path of near Seattle Domestic, in that his view distance and listening are pronounced in a certain extent. His interest in nature will not wrest a secret. Scott joins the Arcane, regarded as the given nature. Frost sharp divide his observations from those of many others. The once separated as the Rainer Maria Rilke from his environment. He also coined the contact with the arcane, with the supernatural. In the case of Prager, these coins are both confused love for Lou Salome Andres one hand, and seen in the landscape they discovered by Russia on the other. The fascinating noble profession Muse wrote after Rilke's death, that his company "... human body and indistinguishable one ..." have been. Arose inter alia before the Joint Travel Rilke's "Book of Hours", that city is remote - no - enemy cycle.
Strong rejection of the big city? Unity of body and human? Well, some verses on Rilke's verses can be melted metal that result from which to forge the appropriate machete can to clear the initially described Blackwood. At the start of "Light the Fires!" Drag on roughened ambient passages that bear repeatedly samples of natural sounds with it. "The things I like to hear sing," puts it in Rilke. Whether in the course of the run, howling wind or treetop noise between the long, tough strands of Scott `furrow between musical art, here is the ambient voice. The ever-compressed sound braid takes later pulses of acoustic instruments, whether the flute parts or the acoustic guitar chords, or the curved tribalistisch rattles - buzz since patterns, here is buzzing Chet W. Scott, where the wolf howls. If not for the reputation of the great gray owl imitated? If those owl called with totemistischem value? Always breathe sounds a generosity that - was the Prague once described as "the silent forces test their width" - of course in other weavings. In addition, Chet-mumbles mumbles again his vocals that sometimes tilt marker in thin screams, absorbed by the darkness of Fangorn after being rushed through there recently. Allumschließend the sound vortex rotates around the phone and you can imagine what the Prague poet once said with "and I'm dark and forest."
Ever find yourself on "Light the Fires!" In the known BLOOD OF THE BLACK OWL tradition no references to the achievements of civilization, not what you hear on the album äugt, on the near (or distant) city, living here is not neo-romantic inspired walk-in, here there is a leaving awareness, with their rigidity constitutes a pair of twins, the time horizon is not a description. Latest when the squeezed out doom growls dash through the just yet verzückenden landscapes, the listener realizes that "at the present time Homeless" behind all this lies here. One who looks into the green hell, what is given to look back and makes him feel, "(We) ... see each other at dark." Augennah skin and strange are the "Far fully significantly more slowly figure".
But where lay Rilke's lyrical in the beckoning arms of despair - "it's killing me all things" applies Scott of "tottering world" to the back. He runs with not in the army of those who understand escapism as an accessory, it does not flee, he turns away. Here is attitude. Since no Selbstergriffener bounces with the irony parachute from the 3-meter springboard, here there are only two options: Let yourself fall or leave it! Cyclically smolder on his sounds and down as the seasons of the sound they pull in front of the listener. His Dronetransformationen fit into this frame without ever being pressed. None of that says "I and anybody thinks," no Durcheinandergehäufter. Rather a "entgegenschweigt of the Eternal."
Ultimately makes "Light The Fires" from a deeply immersed into Shamanistic folk, which is covered by black metallic flakes. An expression that knows the "dying and becoming" the former skirts in strictly timed. Almost as if someone was beating in the distance a huge, bronze gong at the end of each hour. These scrolls are Rilke's "Book of Hours" and then it says. "I live my life in adult rings / which run about the things / I will not accomplish the last, perhaps, / but I will try it."
Initiating the ritual is the prolonged invocation ‘Caller of Spirits’, which sets the tone for much of the album, channelling itself directly into the listener’s subconscious by way of an entrancing mantra sung in traditional throat-singing. Whether this is sung in the native Tuvan tongue, or is simply a vocal articulation which is not reliant on, or even transcendent of language is somewhat ambiguous. I would posit that the primary purpose of this track is to give the listener a kind of subliminal massage, caressing their minds into a state of preparation for the spiritual and cerebral journey they are about to embark upon. This track is pure ambience, and contains very little definitive instrumentation, and certainly nothing you could apply the term ‘music’ to. Besides the throat singing, there is a gently rising monotone running underneath the chant almost like that underlying drone of a bagpipe, in addition to a misty, distant echo of wolf calls, which permeates the peripheries of the conscious mind like a car alarm sounding in the middle of the night. ‘Caller of Spirits’ also serves as an introduction to the overarching theme of Light the Fires, and indeed Blood of the Black Owl’s raison d’être i.e. the articulation of the sounds of nature and our oft tumultuous spiritual connection with it.
Around the 11 minute mark, the rising monotone falls silent, leaving only the sound of Scott’s voice for the last 2 minutes or so, creating a segue into the sedate strains of ‘Wind Eye’ and ‘Rise and Shine’, leaving them to rock you in their arms for the next 20 minutes or so. Don’t let the title of the latter mentioned track fool you into thinking that it will be a reworking of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’, filling you with vim and vigour at the start of a new morning! Conversely, it’s a mammoth 13 minute imploration directed, it seems, more at the sun than the listener. The slowly rising
intonations in the music and addition of more layers of instrumentation echo the optimistic sentiments of the title.
From track 4 ‘Sundrojan’, Light the Fires takes a turn for the heavier. Ushered in with the thorn-throated utterance ‘Falling apart at the rising sun’, immediately answered with a frozen blast of funeral doom, as if Scott has invoked forth this mighty sound from the vasty depths. It’s worth drawing a comparison in Scott’s approach and the vocal stylings of Attila at this point, as these stand-alone utternaces in particular recall his work with Sunno))) . What’s more, this works in conjunction with the elemental nature of the compositions especilly well, as Sunno))) have previously demonstrated on tracks such as ‘Aghartha’, mirroring the groans of a world being twisted into being.
The mood is taken right back down again with the clean/acoustic minimalism of ‘Two Ravens at the Tree Line’, overlaid with Scott’s dulcet death rattle, building up to flurries of clamorous discord on what sounds like some kind of small oriental stringed instrument. Admittedly, however, things do get a bit tiresome at this point, and this was the only track I skipped through sometimes.
‘Soil Magicians’ is the third and final track to break the 13 minute barrier, and begins with the sound of a trickling stream (further perpetuating the pervading sense of the elemental to be found throughout BOTBO’s work) before subsiding into an indolent acoustic piece, accompanied by the almost ever-present ocarina and also rhythmic strums of what sounds like an autoharp. It’s worth observing at this point the diverse skills of Chet W. Scott. He plays a veritable cornucopia of different stringed, percussion and wind instruments on this, as with all BOTBO releases, as well as being an accomplished advocate of electronic ambient noise. Despite the variety of instruments he uses to give life to his compositions, he still manages to keep them sounding totally minimalist, without the merest hint of overcrowding ever creeping in. The second half of ‘Soil Magicians’ erupts into gorgeous funeral doom, with Scott’s guitar ringing out in a tone like leaden velvet, and his feral voice screaming and groaning out like a giant redwood in a hurricane.
Now, I’ve read in other reviews that some find the use of tribal native American instrumentation as well as the naturalistic sound effects to be cheesy on a level erstwhile reserved for sporters of the wolf-crying-at-the-moon-next-to-a-dream-catcher t-shirt. I find, however, that it is expertly blended into the pieces. Who ever knew the humble ocarina could be so haunting for example? Also, earthy, elemental ideology and symbolism is already rife throughout doom and drone, as evidenced by the previous Sunno))) example, and most obviously the band Earth! Moreover, black metal is somewhat obsessed with these notions, although Chet Scott carries this off in less of a Blut und Boden manner, but still conveys the suffering of indigenous people at the hands of colonialism in just as potent a fashion as his Nordic counterparts.
Although I must concede that Light the Fires, until this point does require perseverance, your reward is the crushing finale ‘Disgust and the Horrible Realization of Apathy’. Beginning with the resonance of a pipe organ, the calm is quickly and convincingly shattered by Scott’s malevolent proclamation ‘Your bones are ice/ Shattered by words/ Buried by time’ and a languid riff that is certainly the most evocative of the blackened aspect of BOTBO’s sound, resembling the jagged lamentations of early Darkthrone or Burzum releases whilst retaining that unforgivingly slow tempo.
Amongst the morass of new metal releases it’s truly refreshing to find an absolutely unique sound as is displayed here. I can honestly say I’ve discovered a new favourite, and my eyes will be well and truly peeled for Mr Scott’s future releases. Granted, some parts are over-long and can have an adverse effect where momentum is concerned, but the overall sense of invasive darkness and shamanic mystery justifies this at times arduous journey, and after all, when were great rewards ever easy to come by?
***METAL PSALTER (4.5 out of 5 stars)***
Blood of the Black Owl is primarily the vision of Chet Scott, and much like label mates Nechochwen, the vision that Blood of the Black Owl presents is one with a strong Native American influence, as evidenced in not only its music, but also its artwork. On Light the Fires!, the abilities of the band are on full display, as the doom metal element brings a slow and deliberate pace to the proceedings. The vocals are balanced between the clean, more chant-like vocals and the harsher, spirit-invoking growls, both of which are easy to pick up and decipher. The acoustic guitars on the album are a driving force on the album, as it helps to create a sense of serenity in the sound. There are also other Native American instruments that make an appearance on Light the Fires!, with flutes, drums, and rattles all contributing to the sound. With a running time of just under 74 minutes, Blood of the Black Owl is in no hurry to blaze through the album, and they use ever second to build an atmosphere that is one of the best in recent years. The quiet lulls that exist are likely to put uninitiated listeners to sleep, but the overall balance between the serene parts and the harsher parts is equal and work well with one another.
Blood of the Black Owl is certainly one of the more interesting doom metal bands, covering themes more akin to the Native Americans. However, it works largely because it recreates an atmosphere that is true to the spirit while maintaining a sense of doom metal. Light the Fires! is definitely an album worth checking out if you’re seeking something different in your doom metal diet.
***DON'T COUNT ON IT REVIEWS (Score 8)***
For those that weren't aware, Chet Scott had said after the release of A Banishing Ritual that he was going to take some time away from BotBO in order to focus on his other projects like The Elemental Chrysalis. Last year we saw Handmade Birds release his split with At The Head of The Woods, which wasn't new material, in the sense that it was more of a B-side from the 2010 recording sessions, but throughout the latter stages of the year we got previews foreshadowing the eventual release of this record. I have to say that from what I remember of the trailer for the album, I heard some pretty savage metal bits. Now, I don't know what might have happened between the release of that trailer and the final release of this final end product, but something definitely occurred. The sound of this album is far more in line with the more meditative and ritualistic ambient ideas explored in newest outputs from BoTBO as well as Scott's more ambient projects. What I expected was an album that would embrace a bit more of the metal side of the project, heard on the first two full-lengths, but this is definitely not that.
As opener Caller of Spirits clearly points out, if you're looking for any sort of "traditional" form of metal aggression, you better look elsewhere, because it's not on here. That opening thirteen minute epic is a somber ritual full of chanting, wind instruments, field recordings, and various forms of hand percussion. While following tracks do bring in the use of traditional rock instruments (guitar, bass, drum kit) I can't say that it ever achieves any form of metallic aggression. Instead what appears to have been conveyed through several of these tracks is a more vengeful melancholy. Each track is very pensive and, in a sense, withdrawn, if there is rage or anger on here, it's not shown very often and instead favors the repetitive nature of melancholy. Stylistically, it tends to draw more from folk and ambient music than any form of rock or metal, though there are a few instances of those influences popping through, as expressed on the most outwardly violent track Sundrojan. You'd think that by the time this electricity was finally brought in I'd be excited, but for myself, I found that to be the most dull track on the entire album. It's like, "Yeah, you brought in a distorted guitar to do some droning doom parts, and you sound a bit more angry, but what does it amount to?" Not very much. It's just sort of listless and drags it's feet compared to the other songs, and this song is only seven and a half minutes long, meaning there are five tracks on here that are longer and far more engaging.
Surprisingly, the lengths of the songs on here didn't provide as much of a hurdle for me to get over as some previous outings have been from the project. It's not like these tracks are extremely progressive and forward thinking or even uber droning, they have ideas, some better than others, but each track has its own kind of evolution, whether it's the more subtle one expressed on Rise and Shine or the more typical soft-to-heavy on Soil Magicians, they have an idea and each track sort of just runs with it. The shorter tracks, like the aforementioned Sundrojan is probably the weakest track because it just feels so bland in the middle of more powerful, but softer instrumentally, pieces. Wind Eye may be structurally rather uninteresting, but the idea is simple and consistent, creating a hypnotic atmosphere that draws you in, and ultimately is a better track than the above Sundrojan. The album's opening and closing tracks, which are the most meditative on the album, reflect the journey that is the album (I'm not going to even begin to touch what that journey might be, you look into it/make your own assumptions for yourself there). It's the opening chant that brings you into this world and the droning electricity that sends you out of it.
Unfortunately, I have never been the biggest fan of Chet Scott's work (I know, big shocker), I think what he's done musically is interesting and certainly worthy of praise, but I'm not so impressed with it that I would say I'm not bored with some of it. I think that while the majority of this record is actually really good, there are a couple of tracks that I just couldn't get into during numerous listens through. I'd still say that if you're interested in folk, doom, or various forms of ambient music to definitely look into his material though.