Aylwin / Stellar Descent - Farallon
Atmospheric Black Metal
2 songs (43:49)
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Goat

The growing trend that is Cascadian and Eco-Black Metal is not something that all sections of the kvlt community (kvltmunity?) such as it is, has welcomed. As radical as the genre can be, it still has a very conservative backbone, which is a source of real strength, I think; yet it doesn't make the acceptance of new ideas smooth. The relative newness of black metal means that it has plenty of progression to go through in coming years, a blossoming of ideas coming from those who want to see it change, and a rearguard traditionalist movement keeping the old black flame alive. Rather than view this as a civil war, I see something more positive; a lot of good music, which won't all appeal to everyone but which does rather give the impression of a current mini-golden age for the genre.

This split, available for free download from the Bandcamp link above, brings together two fresh and new bands from the American West Coast to give their lengthy musings; Californian duo Aylwin and Oregonian one-man-band Stellar Descent. There's no denying where these bands fit in from the cover art alone, depicting snowy mountains in sunlight and under a blue sky, focusing their black metal on nature and its preservation rather than Satan and nihilism. And although the base ingredients are the same, shrieks, blastbeats and shimmering guitar lines, the results are quite different. Aylwin open the split with the fourteen-minute plus My Spirit of Pine and the Outer Body Experience: A Sequence of Night and Day, a lengthy, slightly pretentious title that doesn't herald brilliance immediately but which gives the music itself a kind of classy superiority when you actually listen to it. Starting with birdcalls and acoustic strums, mournful female vocals introducing the eventual shrieks and blastbeats, topped by slow, textural riffs. It's undeniably black metal, depressive and yet aggressive at once as the shimmering guitars build and eventually take over completely, the drums returning slowly but without removing your attention. Good, solid atmospheric black metal that has no problem in holding your attention, and a great first half of the split.

When Stellar Descent follows with a single twenty-nine minute song (Farallon: A Sequence of Subduction and Orogeny) talking about 'halves' of the split seems slightly strange. Again beginning with natural sounds and building up to a black metal storm, albeit rawer and more ambient in style, the track seems more chaotic at first, the melody clashing with the underlying drums and not seeming to fit as well. The more you listen, however, the better it seems, the blasting and shrieks getting angrier and the melody becoming less focused and more avant-garde. Somehow seeming noisier each time you hear it, it eventually quietens down around the eleven-minute mark, acoustic guitars joining in in a somewhat post-rock feel that's quite beautiful compared to the emotionally-damaged nastiness of before. It fades even more, becoming acoustic guitar and hand percussion with what seems like goose honking, almost a pastiche of itself, before the electric guitar and drums return in a blasting, noisy racket behind the acoustic guitar, finally seeming to merge and become a unified sound, not pleasant but oddly enthralling, and undeniably fine black metal.

Of the two, it's not hard to tell that I preferred Aylwin's song, although Stellar Descent's ability and skill at weaving together elements of the two facet's of their sound is well worth hearing. As a sampler for these bands, it's revelatory, and both are names that bear investigation by black metal fans – Aylwin have another split and a demo available at the above link, to start you off.

Killing Songs :
Both are excellent
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