Saturday, 14 April 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Vowels - Hooves, Leaves and the Death/As December Nightingales

Genre - Ambient/Post-Black Metal

1. Wolves Eating the Sun
2. Not Unlike a Falling Leaf
3. Vespri
4. At Night
5. Wake

This surreal bunch of melancholic bastards called VOWELS have just released their first album on Sun and Moon, a double EP which is entitled “Hooves, Leaves and the Death/As December Nightingales” and consists of an EP previously released last year and what appears to be a new EP for the latter three songs. They’ve a hard sound to pin down, the influences are extracted from many different sources; there’s everything from Black Metal to Post-Rock and even Noise present but the main foundation to this release lies firmly in the conjuration of ambient soundscapes and lacing them with a dream-like reclusion culminating in something which is nigh impossible to classify.

The first two tracks are the EP “Hooves, Leaves and the Death” and the first track, ‘Wolves Eating the Sun’ is the only track with any remote metal influence, and even at that it’s minimal. It starts off in a subdued fashion playing a soft melody before a lone riff of tremolo picked dissonance comes in accompanied by the murky clean vocals of V.Z. It follows this same basic pattern while ascending through varying degrees of obscurity before building to a climax consisting of a huge wall of sweeping riffing, soaring vocals and an overall epic grandiosity about it which briefly recalls the best of WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM before petering out into a minute or two of ambience.

The vocals really add a detached air to things, not just the previous song but the whole release in general. I’d liken them to URFAUST or almost even a downtrodden Peter Murphy. ‘Not Unlike a Fallen Leaf’ is where the experimental influences really come into force; a vastly encompassing number that has that definite ominous GODSPEED! YOU BLACK EMPEROR vibe to it enhanced by the stringwork on the cello coupled with sporadic periods of guitar distorted beyond recognition. It’s relaxing yet still manages to leave a lingering trace of uncertainty underneath it all. The previous track took a while to warm to and still doesn’t really click with me fully but it’s certainly not poor by any means. The next three were similarly difficult, but once you sink your teeth into them and sit down and pay attention you begin to hear some really fantastic and unique stuff.

It’s very much ‘headphone music’, introverted, restrained and utterly submissive. ‘Vespri’ with its piano invokes a subtle spatial atmosphere of inner reflection and together with ‘At Night’ and its isolated acoustics, brass and deep gothy vocals and ‘Wake’s’ sultry female vocals they bring up grainy images of an otherwise empty bar in black and white New York during night’s twilight hours, accompanied by nothing but your inner thoughts, the smell of whiskey and a thick haze of cigarette smoke.

As I’ve stated it’s extremely hard to pin a sound down on this release, it’s unconventional and has a myriad of different influences which early on can be a bit jarring and conflicting but its core is centred mainly on a dark minimal ambience which is flat out stylish as well as engaging. The highlights are the second half of the opener and the final three tracks, these are just brilliant and a proper album consisting of this laid-back ambience of the latter would be very welcome indeed. Just unwind, pour yourself a glass of Ireland’s finest and sit back and soak it all in, it may take some time but it’s worth it.


Sounds Like - An alcoholic depression

Originally written for Metal Observer
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