And Now The Owls Are Smiling

I grabbed this promo based on 2 things; 1) the fact it’s on the UKs Clobber Records, who released the excellent Argesk debut last year, and 2) I’m still on my melodic/atmospheric black metal kick from 2020 that comprised of over half of my year-end list.

Norfolk’s (not too far from my old Fenny stomping grounds as a wee lad) And Now The Owls Are Smiling is the sole vision of one’ NRE’, who has released 2 previous albums under the moniker, however, this is my first time hearing this outfit and artist, but I am very impressed with the output, being an atmospheric form of despondent but organic, melodic black metal that might be something you find on say Bindrune Records ( Infera Bruo, Falls or Rauros, Alda) or Northern Silence (Saor, Woods of Desolation) .

The 8 ‘dirges’ here are 5 actual songs and 3 intro/outro/interlude numbers. The 5 song are all lengthy, excellent, delivering shimmery, fuzzed-out atmospheric black metal with triumphantly despondent chords, some subtle keyboards and 6/8 riffs, and mid-paced ambient bridges. The vocals are the standard distant shriek with the occasional pained bellow, and it all comes together perfectly with some truly sublime, emotive crescendoes and riffs.

After the intro, “Dirge I: Grief”, the first killer riff is in “Dirge II: Rejection”, which has a soaring but melancholic melody to die for. And that perfect blend of majesty/misery is heard throughout as when NRE locks into a riff  (which he tends to), it is just flat out knee wilting as in the little mid-paced bridges in “Dirge III: Darkness” or the fucking utterly brilliant standout “Dirge VI: Pointlessness”, which delivers an early favorite song and riff of 2021. NRE can also slow things down about to a bit core of a despondent mope as heard on “Dirge IV: Solitude” and “Dirge VII: Acceptance” ( a bit of an anti climactic,  album ending let down though), utilizing a woodsy, clean croon to good effect.

Clobber records only has 20 or so records in their catalog and 7 bands currently on their roster, but the old adage quality over quantity is apt here, as the last 3  I have heard have been excellent (the third being Shadowflag’s In Asylum Requiem, which I never got around to reviewing), And with this having the potential to be on my year-end list, even though its suoer early in 2021, I hope they continue with that approach.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 20th, 2021


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