PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Eyes lay waste to deep freeze with entrancing ‘Sick With Bloom’

Yellow EYesIt’s not the ideal time to be thinking about the winter thaw. Considering that season remains a little less than a month away, that thought could be chalked up to wishful thinking, despite the fact that I enjoy the snow and deep freezes. Yet here I am, dreaming of lawns melting out from under snow, soggy, sloshy walking trails, and the first hints of warmth through the cold.

Those thoughts come back to me so many times when I visit “Sick With Bloom,” the unbelievable new record from Yellow Eyes and their third long player overall. Maybe it’s the album title, maybe it’s because the final track is called “Ice in the Spring,” but so much of this record makes me think of March and April, when seasons clash, one refusing to give way to the other. You can’t prepare for the conditions, and the way you dress in the morning is not the way you would for afternoon or early evening. It’s something that I’m really stuck on experiencing these six songs, and I wonder if in a few months when that times arrives if “Sick With Bloom” won’t have even more power. If that’s even possible.

Yellow Eyes coverYellow Eyes have done a fine job carving out a stellar reputation for themselves while also staying oddly elusive. Their music is some of the most energetic, thought-provoking, and creative in the U.S. black metal scene, and as time goes on, the bigger their cult following seems to get. Yet their music isn’t the easiest to come by in the physical sense (just peruse http://www.sibirrecords.com/ to see all the items that have long been sold out), and most of that they’ve done has been built in a live setting. Yet the band–Will and Sam Skarstad, along with drummer M. Rekevics (also of Fell Voices, Vanum)–is putting out their highest-profile release yet (Gilead Media is handling the honors), so for a lot of people, this might be the first time you get your mitts on one of their records. And all for good, as this is the best thing they’ve ever put out (cue the “such and such album was better” crowd) and should open plenty more ears to their amazing sound.

The title track opens with insects chirping, chimes gently clashing in the breeze, and the eruption of the first of a swarming collection of warm riffs. The drums are decimated, while the raw, coarse shrieks rough up the skin, and an infusion of melody brings blinding colors. The music spirals, causing a dizzying effect, and that vortex continues and pushes its way into “Streaming From the Undergrowth.” There, riffs gush and the band pounds away, with wrenching vocals enhancing the complete chaos over which it spreads. Much of this feels like a black storm dropping, destroying any sense of calm or beauty and spreading all the way to the final minutes when serenity, and the insects, return. “What Filters Through the Copper Stain” emerges out of that, with melodies washing over slowly, only for electricity to burst with force. The band bruises and crushes, as riffs dominate, and their onslaught remains continuous until calm emerges, a storm settles over and soaks the ground, acoustic picking rises, and noise whines.

“The Mangrove, the Preserver” starts with black melodies pouring down, with anguish spilling out of every crevice, guitars sparking and sweltering, and the vocals scraping open your skin. It feels like being in the middle of a swath of rain and unforgiving winds that rob you off your balance, and these elements continue to churn and burn all the way to the finish. “Fallen Snag” erupts right from the start, with an entrancing pace claiming your ground, and speed and calamity being the dominant traits. Spindling, clean guitar work bubbles underneath the surface, while spacey, atmospheric elements slow the pace and cause the track to end in a shimmer. Aforementioned “Ice in the Spring” caps off the record, starting with arguably the best riff on the whole damn record and the band completely exploding. There is so much emotional caterwaul on display here that it can be overwhelming, as the band keeps lashing away, and a psychedelic wash lets just a glimpse of itself trickle to the surface. The track keeps driving, unloading everything it has before serenity arrives, acoustics rise up again, and the droned chirping drags you into the woods looking for new buds of life.

Yellow Eyes’ reputation was earned the hard way, and the praise you hear for them is completely justified. This is a band that improves with leaps and bounds every step of the way, and they’ve outdone themselves on “Sick With Bloom.” This record is a contagious one, a collection of songs that you’ll want to repeat after each listen. I’ve done that myself a ton of times already, and I’m sure I will well past spring’s final victory over the ice and snow.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Yellow-Eyes-659862920738821/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.erodingwinds.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/