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And Now The Owls Are Smiling – Epitaph

and now the owls are smiling – epitaph

It’s a bittersweet moment. On the one hand here is a new album from North Norfolk’s own Atmospheric Black Metal one man maestro Nre, and his brainchild And Now The Owls Are Smiling. Yet on the other hand, his brand new opus is also his last. Fittingly entitled ‘Epitaph’, now we are left with the sombre thought that the owls will be smiling no more. So a swansong this album is, but what a way to bring to an end an incredible, melancholy enchanting journey. Once more intense musical depression collides impactfully with soaring harmonies, soul wrenching anguished vocals, beautiful lilting tremolo and dare I say it, during brief spoken word interludes, just a touch of the post Death/Doom style that Anathema adopted once the growls were dispensed with. Maybe that’s just in my head but I heard it I tell you!

Oddly enough ‘Epitaph’ can be a truly uplifting experience in places. The melodies soar high during ‘Monochrome Visions of What Life Used to Be’ as it oozes with nostalgic mind wandering. Genuinely this is an album that feels like a journey, yet like all good journey’s this one is tinged with the dark clouds that signify its ultimate end. ANTOAS’s last two albums ‘Dirges’ and before that ‘The Comforting Grip of Misery’ are both astonishingly brilliant albums, each in their own separate ways and individual from each other. But my goodness, ‘Epitaph’ is astounding, almost regal in its majestic soundscapes. As a cherry on the cake moment, ‘Winter’s Elegy II’, a continuation from the Nre’s second album, is a perfect and very welcome melodic and sombre interlude. Everything from the vocals where you can hear the desperation clawing at the back of your mind, to the cleaner, softer and melancholic singing; this is craftsmanship on a whole other level.

I have always maintained that any truly great album, in any genre, will have a final track that gives off an end of album feel, a soft goodbye from a piece of art well crafted. How has Nre managed to make an entire full length sound just like that? To give off that feeling throughout? I certainly can’t answer that. For my review of ‘Dirges’ I ended with the line ‘And Now The owls Are Smiling but they would be the only ones’. Sadly for us, if the owls are carrying on smiling, we’ll not get to hear about it. (Luke Hayhurst)