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And Now the Owls Are Smiling – Dirges

and now the owls are smiling – dirges

If your band or musical project chooses a name as eye-catching as And Now The Owls Are Smiling, they’d best work damn hard to follow that first impression up with something of substance. A one man project from North Norfolk in the east of England, And Now The Owls Are Smiling third full length release in as many years, ‘Dirges’, capably does the graft required to elaborate on first impressions. A passionate, mournful, and melodic album with an almost Victorian austereness about it, ‘Dirges’ manages to come across as emotionally ruthless as it does physically, whilst being forever shrouded in a dense mist of oppressive, overwrought current. Let me elaborate…

From a purely technical viewpoint, ‘Dirges’ feels like a plethora of styles and influences condensed down into a tightly packed ball, which then spends its time striving to free itself from its weighty shackles. And so, crawling steadily and doggedly from this charged emotional mist comes a mixture of vocal styles ranging from agonizing growls and shouts, to colder, cleaner harmonies. Soothing atmospheric synth melodies intertwine with the icy harsh blast-beats and riffs, symbol crashes sound like a charge of the light brigade in an ongoing sensory struggle to rise from a colossal crushing depression that never quite relinquishes its iron grip.

What ‘Dirges’ represents on a factual level is eight tracks telling a chronological story that starts from a crippling depression, and from that starting point winds its way through a labyrinth of escalating emotional turmoil until the sweet release of death, and the tantalizing unknowns of the afterlife. All of this journey is laid bare before us through the vessel of depressive and atmospheric Black Metal, an expertly crafted and performed homily to anguish, regret, desperation and hopelessness. The owls may well be smiling, but they would be the only ones. (Luke Hayhurst)