And Now The Owls Are Smiling

Can someone in the Norfolk (UK) area please go and check on NRE? Seriously, from what I’m hearing on his sixth and final album under his And Now The Owls Are Smiling moniker, he must have undergone some drastically emotional shit since 2021s Dirges, a despondent but still atmospheric and at times melodic black metal album.

Epitaph is dark. Really dark, and one of the more depressing, despondent albums I’ve heard in the last few years. Forsaking anything remotely melodic black metal in favor of depressive black metal/doom that Moribund Records churned out in the early 00s. NRE’s pained screams alone (and depressing clean croons here and there) are enough to open wrists, and if they were deep growls, this would be a funeral doom album, but the music, which at least on Dirges had some nice melodic 6/8 tremolo-picked riffs here and there is now a mid-paced lope through some truly rending stuff.

The 7 lengthy songs ( and 1 cover) with titles like “Every Day Another Piece of Me Is Removed”, “In Darkness, Light Candles So the Demons Can Find Me”, ” The Miserable Grip of Comfort” and “There is No Laughter Here” are all utterly miserable with hardly a single strain of anything positive or uplifting anywhere to be found. 4 of the tracks all have a similar moping, despondent, mid-paced sway and lope with melancholic layered riffs with “In Darkness, Light Candles So the Demons Can Find Me” being particularly gut-wrenching in the album’s first half.

“The Miserable Grip of Comfort” is the rare track that isn’t completely fucking depressing, with a slight uptick in pace and the riffs being a bit less suicide-inducing, that’s quickly wiped away when “There is No Laughter Here” where NRE mixes in deeper vocals and clean vocals that indeed imbue more funeral doom vibe and the little bells/xylophone/keys or whatever in the background are just haunting as all get out.

That all said, it’s the 4th folky track “Winters’ Elegy pt 2” where female vocals over a minimalist acoustic refrain chanting “be still, be still…….. keep your children, inside, don’t let them go outside and play” that really hits something deep on your soul as well.

The album fittingly really ends with “There is No laughter Here” as the last two tracks are a short acoustic number (“L’Appel Du Vide”) and a cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, though it seems apt and fits well on the and of this swansong. (“This machine will, will not communicate. These thoughts and the strain I am under, Be a world child, form a circle, Before we all go under, And fade out again and fade out again”).

I understand living in Norfolk can be depressing- I lived in East Anglia as well for 18 years, but holy shit, I never got this low ( I did move to America though….)….the owls have definitely stopped smiling but I look forward to whatever NRE does next.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 23rd, 2022


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