Owl is the latest project to emerge from the ever productive and continually brilliant German label (and family of bands) Zeitgeister. This particular project is the brainchild of Christian Kolf (Island, Valborg, Woburn House), who handles everything but drums on this debut full-length (those are handled by Zeitgeister brother-in-arms Patrick Schröder). At its root Owl is deeply organic and menacing death metal, an unholy union of bottom-feeding personality, Immolation’s most esoteric and hate-fueled riffage, The Chasm’s cavernous expanses and even Deathspell Omega’s dissonant, less blackened terrain. It all carries a bit of that familiar eeriness common in Kolf’s other projects, not to mention the most hellacious and demonic vocals the man has ever spewed forth.
The album kicks off with (the amazingly Nile-titled) “Conquering the Kingdom of Rain (Enter Her Holy Halls),” a 13-minute death metal behemoth of churning riffs and subtle dynamics that manages to make its length pass by in no time flat. The opener is both a statement of musical purpose and a ridiculously tasty first course. Following is (Karl Sanders-sent-me-a-shitload-of-words-to-name-a-song) “Lost in Vaults Underneath the Melting Mountain of the Saints,” which finds its minimalism in an unholy union of Valborg and Dead Congregation. Listeners are subsequently treated to (let’s-get-Proscriptor-in-on-the-long-song-title-jokes) “The Daimonion of Dying Summers Looming through the Golden Mist of Dreams” and (Bal-Sagoth got nothing on this shit) “Spell of the Ignis Fatuus That Lead to the Impalpable Altar of Beasts,” both of which help to round out one seriously animalistic half hour of death metal.
But that’s just the first half… the other 30 minutes is, well, different.
The entirety of (Mr. Kolf, I dub thee Sir Demilich) “Threnodical Ritual at the Spectral Shores of the Eternal Sunset” is an ambient exercise in slowly-shifting keyboards and the sound of the shoreline, changing little over the long time it encompasses. It is either the longest outro ever written for a death metal album or it really is meant to be the album’s second half. Either way it takes up half of the album’s runtime, making Owl tough to fully assess. To solve this I asked myself a series of questions:
- Is the first half a skull-crusher? No doubt about it.
- Is the second half pleasing-yet-forgettable? That about sums it up.
- After a few spins did I typically stop listening when the last track started? Yep.
- Does this hurt the overall album quality? Perhaps a tad, but not much.
- Will I be spinning Owl more? Oh you better believe it buddy.
That was the rationale. I like it perhaps a tad lower than if it was just the death metal half, but oh well, this shit slays. Owl has the prowess and quality to draw in some of the disgruntled death metal fans (myself included) that are a mite tired with the tech, core, or brutal infusions and just want some dirty, pandemonium-borne death metal. Owl has that and enough unique personality (that Zeitgeister touch) to set itself apart from the pack.
I would like to now formally apologize to the band and our readers for my asinine song title jokes.
Also, buy this.