Eight Bells rise from murky, dark waters with debut that will leave you enthralled

Eight Bells

The dissolution of a great band obviously can be a sad thing. You grow up with a band, get used to a band, or have significant formative experiences while listening to a band, so losing them sometimes can be like parting with a best friend.

And by great band, it doesn’t have to mean Zeppelin. It can mean a band that means something to you and that, without them, part of your artistic world isn’t quite the same. Will you die? Probably not. But you’ll be upset, no doubt. That’s how a lot of people felt when SubArachnoid Space called it quits in 2010, and while they have not have been a huge band even on an underground level, for those who dug and were moved by their expansive, psychedelic works, it was a huge loss. I understand that totally, because their music always stimulated me and expanded my mind, and they always were a band that, despite how I felt about them, never seemed to capture the widespread acclaim they deserved.

No matter. Despite them not becoming a widely known and adored phenomenon like they deserved, there is some hope for some of their members. Sharing the name as the final SAS album, Eight Bells have risen from the ashes and very capably kept things moving further into space and the outer reaches of your mind that demand something more from music. Eight Bells seem more than happy to supply you with what SAS provided in their time together, but with some hugely different elements that separate this band from the group from which they kind of morphed. You’ll like it if you were into SAS, but it is nowhere near the same thing. Have I made that clear enough?

eight bells coverEight Bells are comprised of former SubArachnoid Space member Melynda Jackson, former SAS drummer Chris Van Huffel, and classically trained six-string bassist Haley Westeiner, who teams with Jackson on vocals, and they provide a mighty, vital backbone to this band that is equally adventurous and riveting, providing not only something fresh to the metal world but also adding something volcanic and emotionally explosive to the rock genre in general. It could kind of use that, don’t you agree? Eight Bells are here to answer the call.

The band’s four-track, self-titled debut is out on Seventh Rule (it’ll follow later in vinyl by way of The Flenser), and I have not been able to stop listening to the album for the past month since I got the digital version of the record. There is something about it that, journey wise, I have not been able to stop taking, as I’ve been claimed by every wave of their nautical tension. As much as I enjoyed SAS and what they did together during their run, Eight Bells already have captivated me as much, if not more, than the band that preceded them. This record’s been an infectious joy to hear, and I can’t get enough of the four songs.

“Tributaries” feels a bit like an introduction to this album, one built on prog rock tendencies, experimental tones, shoegazey fire, and a thought-provoking channel that leads into the record’s highlight “Fate and Technology,” a track that gets off to an atmospheric start and trickles slowly. Then the drums pick up, their thrashier proclivities rise to the surface, only for things settle down again. We hear Westeiner’s voice for the first time, as it comes as a softer, more delicate instrument but that’s only until the song erupts volcanically, and all of the singing on the track turns to anguished wails and guttural growls (with Jackson providing some of the scary growls and shrieks). The band mashes the song unmercifully, and the bashing takes on a smashing start-stop tempo that is the most metallic stuff on this entire album.

The title cut gets off to a bouncy start, sounding a bit like a tasty Sleater Kinney-style riff that also has a little Rush stitched into it, and from there the song progresses, from airy playing to psychedelic boiling, to spirited guitar work, seemingly drawing to a close with four minutes left in its running time. But from there it transforms into something completely different, spiraling into Pink Floyd-like dark rejoicing, haunting choral calls (provided by Kris Force of Amber Asylum), and more blistering guitar work that gives the close a serious dose of oomph. Closer “Yellowed Wallpaper,” based on Charlotte Perkins Gillman, who had a story of the same name and eventually went into madness,  is trickling and exploratory for much of the song, but there also is a good bit of agitated playing, tricky riffs, aggravated drumming, and a great climactic finish that send this record from raging inferno to floating pilot light.

Eight Bells’ adventures are, as noted, mostly instrumental pieces, but they hold within them great drama and passion that cannot be questioned. When they use words, they are employed wisely and to fully enhance the stories playing out. There already was the promise of greatness before a note of music was played just based on who’s assembled here, but they go above and beyond all expectations to create a debut album that should leave a lifetime mark on your soul. That doesn’t happen every day, so make sure you don’t miss out on this explosive voyage.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.eightbellsband.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.seventhrule.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.seventhrule.com/