Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin Review

[Artwork by Tom Roberts]

Have you had the pleasure of meeting Eight Bells yet? If not, allow me the honor of a formal introduction.

Eight Bells is a metal band that’s apparently not quite metal enough for Encyclopaedia Metallum, as a result of… Hailing from Portland, Oregon and having post-rock elements? Flexing too much of a Hawkwind impact in the early days? Being from the US and never having Colin Marston involved in one of their recordings? Never publicly denigrating nu metal? Some formidable combination of these elements? I HAVE NO IDEA. Just know you will not be able to dig through the knotty lineage of Eight Bells by way of every metal fan’s perpetual open browser tab: Metal-Archives.

Release date: February 25, 2022. Label: Prophecy Productions.
Here’s the 10¢ history recap: Eight Bells blossomed from the ashes of San Francisco psych-rock band SubArachnoid Space, by way of guitarist Melynda Jackson and drummer Chris Van Huffle. Yes, a fair bit of the trippy Eloy / Hawkwind vibe from the duo’s former band carried forward into their new venture, but even the Eight Bells debut (2013’s The Captain’s Daughter) nailed enough heaviness to the corners to grant them the internet’s most haphazard metal tag: doom. Or even more enchantingly fortuitous: “experimental doom,” thanks to all the unique zigzags pinned inside most every song that explored loads of temperaments and textures. You know, the same sort of “West Coast hippie avant-gardism” that lands an endless sea of bands such as Hammers of Misfortune, Giant Squid, Grayceon, Cormorant (RIP), Eight Bells et al. a near endless amount of tags at the bottom of their respective bandcamp pages.

The Eight Bells sophomore effort, 2016’s Landless, magnified the metal elements to a greater degree, attaching a more effective truthfulness to the doom tag that yielded a more gradual tempo and a gloomier overall atmosphere. Those cornerstone post- and psych- elements were still represented, however, so the band continued to swirl in the sort of nebulous “progressive psychedelic doom” realm that defied precise categorization and made them suitable companions for tours alongside the likes of SubRosa and Voivod, plus an eventual spot at the always assorted Psycho Las Vegas fest in 2018.

Now, following a series of setbacks and circumstances leading to a significant lineup change, Eight Bells is finally back with their third full-length, Legacy of Ruin, and joining founding guitarist / vocalist Melynda Jackson are Matt Solis (Ursa, ex-Cormorant) on bass / vocals and Brian Burke (Cave Dweller, No Shores) on drums. The crew revision is significant right of the bat, with the shift to a male counterpoint to Melynda’s voice resulting in a contrasting dynamic compared to prior releases. Still very much rooted in the gauzy and spectral, but with more of a…ritualistic aspect that blends nicely with the record’s general shadowiness.

Okay, let’s kick things up a notch with a bit of juicy chatter that could land this ship in some fresh and delicious contention.

If you miss the sound of Agalloch, you will find some comfort inside Legacy of Ruin.

If you miss modern emotive doom akin to Warning (UK) or YOB, you will find some comfort inside Legacy of Ruin.

If you like the idea of the above two components mingling with pieces of Germany’s Empyrium, you will find some comfort inside Legacy of Ruin.

4/5 on the clickbait meter?

Okay, Legacy of Ruin doesn’t really sound like Agalloch or YOB or Empyrium in a way that’s immediately explicit, but beyond some level of stylistic comparison, there is a mood and sentiment here that certainly shares common ground. Eight Bells has always operated on a very emotive, introspective plane that resonates with reclusiveness and our inborn need to steal away into the wilds for reflection / restoration, so those who favor music as a companion to such a thing that’s passed through a progressive / atmospheric doom and black metal lens will certainly find things to love here. This basically speaks to the truth that Eight Bells circa 2022 has finalized their transformation into a fully developed Heavy Metal Band, and they are henceforth deserving of all the perks, benefits and advantages due as a result of such a metamorphosis. You know, hundreds of splatter variations for LPs, official Eight Bells sweat pants, and…… Well, I guess that’s really about it.

Stretching out to just over 11 minutes allows a song like “The Well” to be rather gradual about ebb & flow and the “peacefulness shifting to storminess” that governs the band’s overall design. It’s the doomiest cut of the bunch, both in stride and spirit, but the song also does a wonderful job of showing how nimble the trio is at seamless transformations. This is central to Eight Bells, as shifts are pervasive from song to song as well as within each song, and balance is vital. Accordingly, things can get quite heavy, whether it’s the slightly proggier stance of a song like “Torpid Dreamer” or the flat out crushing midpoint of the leveling closer “Premonition,” or you might suddenly find yourself thrown into a hurtling energy that evokes the vitality of bands such as Ludicra or Woe. Mutations such as this are frequent, but the quieter and more spectral stretches used to cool the engines are never more than a stone’s throw away.

Throughout the prevailing hithering and thitthering, however, one particular boon always manages to drive emotion’s fiery spearhead directly into the ol’ heart: the guitar work of Melynda Jackson. Over the years she has consistently proven herself very capable of striking the sort of chord potent enough to render the listener powerless. And by and large, she manages this without relying on elaborate soloing, opting instead to find just the right melancholic lick as a quick dagger strike to the heart. Check the 2:45 mark of “Nadir,” for example—it’s such a straightforward little riff and melody, but its significance is flattening. It’s this sort of attention to tuneful detail that drove a fair chunk of a record like The Mantle home, and it’s equally as crucial for Legacy of Ruin.

The only obstacle concerning Legacy of Ruin that comes to mind is the outside possibility that some early fans might prefer the days when the stylistic span between Eight Bells and SubArachnoid Space was smaller. Not that the space rock days are fully in the rearview mirror in 2022, but this is truly one of those bonafide “modern West Coast metal” records. What the hell does that mean? Is Legacy of Ruin doom? Progressive metal? Blackened metal? Post metal? Experimental or avant-garde metal? Sure, why not all those things—Eight Bells is the sort of band that feeds on genre tags like whales feed on krill. Furthermore, it seems likely they’re not terribly interested in sitting in any one place for very long, so it’s possible full-length number four ends up coming across like early Pink Fairies filtered through King Diamond. (Please let that be true.) One thing for certain, though: whatever rumbles down the conveyor next, it’ll be a challenge for Eight Bells to top Legacy of Ruin.

Photo by Cody Keto

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; That was my skull!

  1. Thanks for the review Doom is really taking over my life and this band ROCKS!


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