There has always been something so admirable and intrinsic about Yellow Eyes’ approach to black metal. There is a deep rooted catharsis that can be found in a lot of their music. From interviews I’ve read and other information I’ve accumulated, they’ve always seemed to be a humble, contemplative, entity just like their namesake would suggest; a beast that dwells in the shadows. Though not a timid one, if you were to turn your back on it, it would mean your life. Maybe even a beast or creature that revels
in being in that darkness. They’ve never been for flashy gimmicks or extravagant subject matter in lyricism or themes. Recurrent black metal conversation-pieces like politics and religion have no merit here, it’s all about nature, loss, and isolation. Yellow Eyes are a four piece ‘cascadian’ black metal band that's been quietly making waves since the beginning of this decade. Hailing from New York and led by the heart and soul of this project since day one, brothers Will and Sam Skarstad. For anyone that was paying attention, these guys stood out from their contemporaries in an amicable, but unique way. Oddly, why they do isn’t as apparent as you’d think. They were salient to me for their modest, yet, somewhat insouciant aesthetic to their music. They've never had a problem with creating an encapsulating atmosphere or hypnotic anguish well. Nevertheless, there has consistently been this lingering feeling of something not quite distinguished yet; that something being — an unbeknownst fulfillment of their potential. It’s hard for me to articulate into words, and not that any of their previous work wasn’t “good enough” or anything like that, but it has always felt like they’ve had this vision for their music for some time now and have finally, comprehensively, honed in on it.
Rare Field Ceiling
isn’t a reinvention of their modus operandi by any means, but it’s a more than gratifying refinement of their sound. The dissonant yet melodious frenzy of tremolo picked guitars, the thunderous blast beats, and thumping double bass are all still here. As well as the tortured vocals that feel like they’re shouting at you from a deep dark crevice, of course not in anger, but in sorrow. The band hasn’t felt this ardent since 2014 and something internally is different. This album sounds more poised in some regard, and there is this urgency to the songs on this that's never been as evident as here. I honestly can’t remember Yellow Eyes ever sounding this brazen, and wholeheartedly confident in what they’re doing, and it’s glorious. The guitar playing is much more varied and dynamic; there’s also a lot more stand out riffs and memorable passages woven into these songs. They have always had great song structure and transitions, but this album kicks it up a notch. Hell, even the bass plays a more integral role, and has a surprisingly welcome presence on this LP. Improved composition and phrasing presented here elevate this above the rest of their discography in an understated manner. The technicality on display is also taken to new lengths where you can not only hear the difference, but it really feels
like they are taking a deeper, denser, approach to what they have been meddling with all these years. What’s overt when listening to this is how assured and grown Yellow Eyes’ sound has become as an integrated collective. For instance, take the venomous intro to ‘No Dust’, or the triumphant guitar chorus and infectious bass line dancing around ‘Light Delusion Curtain’. There is more exuberant routes being taken with their flow and song structure. All six songs are distinct in their ideas and feel purposeful at all times. The band has never been a stranger to icy atmospheres, never failing to leave the listener cold, or even equanimous. But what's made itself even more apparent, is the warmth found in many parts of this album. Warmth has always been a quasi-transient property in their music. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been an underlying quality of their body of work, but now they're able to articulate it as songwriters effortlessly. I was taken aback when I first heard the song, 'Nutrient Painting'. It was an anomaly at first, but it also felt inherent simultaneously. The song is also quite pulchritudinous, in a ruinous kind of way, of course. The unbridled melancholia oozing out of this song gives their 2013 track, ‘In This Stillness’ a run for its money. And it might just be the most exultant song I’ve heard from Yellow Eyes thus far.
These guys have always been good at tapping into an almost trance-like wave of tremolo picked harmonies that evoke a feeling, as I can only describe as, ‘coziness’, which would be lost to the uninitiated undoubtedly. A feeling I can only liken to the color that is celadon
. Like most of their discography, all six of the songs present here are accompanied by field recordings and other serene things. These samples and their idyllic acoustic/clean guitar breaks have always provided a tranquil backdrop for their brand of black metal. Though, Rare Field Ceiling
is mostly comprised of reposeful wind chimes and a haunting vocal choir of women often, rather than the ethereal guitars sprinkled through previous work. The recordings often fading in and out being appropriated as a segue or transition. Acting as an all encompassing bridge to the next and previous song concurrently, like how vines of an ivy or climbing purple bell plant would envelop the isolated cabin they probably recorded this in. These samples were collected during Will and Sam’s travels to a myriad of different countries whilst writing this album. The final track ‘Maritime Flare’ is a complete amalgamation of all the samples scattered throughout the album and some. It’s six minutes of tranquil isolation and gloom accompanied by Will’s screaming that manages to sound even more remote and ghostly than before, being used here as a distant echo to great effect. All while radiating an opaque guilness. I personally didn’t really care for their 2015 release, Sick With Bloom
, as I felt it was plagued with meandering writing and at its worst, aimless song structures. It didn't feel nearly as inspired and it was missing that ‘oomph’ something like, Hammer of Night
had in droves.
Yellow Eyes has proved through an expansion of their repertoire that they’re still a force to be reckoned with, rectifying any previous doubt, as one of the best USBM groups working today. The album being more accessible than anything made prior, while maintaining their esoteric charm. Still keeping that mysticism of not giving everything to you at face value. Requiring the listeners patience and repeated listens to unpack it all. This album is emotive and much more defined than anything they’ve done since The Desert Mourns
. It’s my utmost pleasure to report that Rare Field Ceiling
is the summation of all things substantial and worthwhile Yellow Eyes is and has become. It’s frigid labyrinthine of riffs are a delight to unravel. Managing to sound profound while still maintaining delicacy. This is the album I always knew they had in them and this is a resolute band at the top of their game, you won’t want to miss it.