Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Yellow Eyes - Stillicide (Sibir Records & Prison Tatt Records)

A twanging ushers in the madness. Unassuming and pleasant, the sounds of a simpler time. Soon feedback enters and shortly one is trapped in a whirlwind, a chaotic frenzy of expansive riffs and blasting drums. This is only the beginning of Yellow Eyes' new EP Stillicide, a fourteen minute expression of grief, spite, abstraction, and mystery. Like the rest of Yellow Eyes' staggering catalogue Stillicide resides firmly in the realm of black metal, yet the effort is not marred by traditionalism, quite the contrary actually. On this new EP Yellow Eyes continue to push black metal to new soaring heights while remaining mindful of the genre's roots.

In a brief amount of time Yellow Eyes are able to cover an astonishing amount of emotional ground. The style of black metal that the band plays is full of twists and turns, abrupt switches in tempo and feel. Take the second track, "Heat From Other Days," which transitions sharply from aggressive, churning darkness to lush, chiming intricacies, each of which carries a different emotional weight. Vocalist Will Skarstad's characteristic high-pitched rasp is utilized, in it one hears sorrow, triumph, and malice. The lyrics, in typical Yellow Eyes fashion are abstract expressions. Take these lyrics from the final passage of "Heat From Other Days":

"When I was old enough
I pushed aside a tile
And snaked through the cold muck
Into the vast and brittle day
I took the lower path
Full of pellets, unresolved
And I let the heat from other days become my fire"

Yellow Eyes transcend the generic carbon copy black metal lyrics in favor of a more poetic, deeply expressionistic, and symbolic approach. The lyrics found on every Yellow Eyes release further solidify the band's place as an innovative force in black metal.

The music found on Stillicide is very dense, resembling the sound the band utilized on their last release, The Desert Mourns. Both releases see Yellow Eyes moving towards a more lush and bleakly thick sound. The opening of the EP displays this opaque aggression as a torrent of riffs speeds forward backed by relentless percussion, towing the line between shimmering vibrance and raw murk. On Stillicide a new layer of clarity exists, each distinct feature from the duel guitar harmonies to the pulsating throb of the bass to the pounding of the drums can be heard and felt. The high-pitched harmonies that were such a prevalent force in the band's earlier material make a refreshing return on Stillicide but are more fully integrated, adding to the colossal vortex of sound Yellow Eyes creates.

Stillicide sees Yellow Eyes striving forward along the path they have treaded since their inception, that of ingenuity with an eye on tradition. Nothing that exists here will surprise fans of the band's expressive approach to the genre but it will solidify them once again as a unique force in the landscape of millennial black metal and black metal as a whole. Stillicide will be released soon as a joint effort between Sibir Records (a label run by members of the band) and Prison Tatt Records.

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