One man act AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING has returned from deepest, darkest Norfolk with their new release The Comforting Grip Of Misery.
The project had their first release in 2017 with the EP The Brooding and enjoyed favourable reviews on the follow up full length release Desolation.
In terms of personnel on the album, the majority of the work has been done by multi-instrumentalist mastermind Nre with guest appearances from Linds Bestwick, who provides vocals on Winter’s Elegy and Steve Blackwood, who provides the solo on the title track.
The album opens with Our Forest Calls Me Home. It sets the atmosphere with the fall of rain and thunder cracking that leads into a fairly simple riff. When the vocals kick in really provides a wow moment. You are all of a sudden overcome with this wonderfully layered sonic experience. Interesting to note that the vocals don’t take pride of place but instead remain tastefully obscured by the other instrumentation, adding a certain feel that would otherwise be unattained. It’s the same experience as listening to cars go by your window on a rainy night, it has that certain romanticised quality. The song ultimately returns to the clean choir-like vocals that started it fading to nothing and providing a bookend to the experience.
An Indictment is strangely one of the few tracks that could be next, starting from silence with glassy notes being introduced before kicking into the Atmospheric Black Metal sound we all know. The album continues in much the same way as this track except one song.
Winter’s Elegy is a hauntingly beautiful track. It invokes the spirit of other mournful songs like the traditional song The Parting Glass and yet it sounds modern in that you could imagine MYRKUR having this song as an album opener. Not only are the lyrics constructed amazingly well but Bestwicke’s voice is so filled with sorrow that you can imagine her standing on the Norfolk Broads at the end of winter with tears in her eyes. The gentle vibe ties it together perfectly with the clean vocals on the first track and helps to make listening to the album a more cohesive experience. This in my opinion is the standout track and if you listen to anything from this album, it should be this. It’s also a great example to show people that extreme metal musicians are in fact true artists (and possibly make them more receptive to the genres involved), so go forth and spread the news!
The Comforting Grip Of Misery is not a masterclass in the genre, but it’s definitely an enjoyable listening experience. I found it very difficult to get a handle on what it wanted to be and to be honest that was half the fun. If you’re looking for a purely raw sound this album will not be for you, and it you’re looking for a very refined sound you might want to give it a miss. This song sits comfortably in between those two marks and it looks good doing it.
Words: Jacob McCrone
The Comforting Grip Of Misery is out now.