Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Night Heir - A Maze Of Evenings (2013)

Full Length, Self-released /Independent
July 28th, 2013

Genre: Experimental/Avant-garde Black Metal
Region: USA

NOTE: These hard working fellows are looking for a label of some kind that would be interested in releasing this record in physical form, so I'm putting the word out. If you think you could help them out I suggest you contact them (chambermusick@gmail.com) because this is a record I'd very much like to see on wax or tape or something. A release very much deserving of a physical home.
I’m excited! The new Night Heir album has finally appeared. It’s funny because I was wondering a few months ago if this year we’d see something new from Night Heir. Their last album Wind In My Dream Mist In My House is a sleeper gem of 2010, it’s impression grew on me significantly since I first heard it — so I’ve been wondering what exactly this now growing collective would come up for a follow-up.

Well, it’s quite brilliant. Overall it’s stronger and more generous than the aforementioned record. This new effort quickly ensnares you with it’s charm, unique atmosphere and bold approach which has been refined and expanded since last we encountered Night Heir.

A Maze Of Evenings brings more members (or contributors) into the circle, and with them more sounds and textures along with extended life; it hits about an hour and twelve minutes. While it was largely a one and two person project last time this record brings a swath of different vocal contributions and styles which enhance their tradition of wide scope in that arena, smoothly buttressing the swooning progressions both in the traditional guitar/bass/drums threesome, but also in the synth/keys and noise. These last two elements come to play an even bigger role than last time overall.

All of this thickens the already eerie atmosphere, new and larger amounts of varied, layered vocals add new dimensions to this records sound. The production was handled by the band rather than Colin Marston resulting in a more coarse, lo-fi quality compared to a surprisingly finer one on the previous record. This leaves the distorted and loud moments sounding grittier and the quiet valleys are a little more crisp.

It has made the drumming (snare for sure) a little more distant and thin but this hasn’t dampened the impact of those gripping bass grooves which played a prominent part on their Wind In My Dream... and now do so here. Especially on a lot of the clean sections, but also for instance on the the opening ritual “Inamorata”, and later on “Inner Female”, "Daymare" and “Draw Me Down The Moon” where those licks stick out and play prominently.

The journey feels more contemplative in its pace and volume this time around — even when it is being loud. Night Heir has not lost anything by doing this as their strengths buoyed further in the longer treks on the album allowing them to explore both parts equally and more fruitfully it seems; where the builds can be big and slow with just as much pay-off.

I’m talking about tracks like “Giver & Receiver” and “Inner Female”. The former is a perfect example of tricking the listener into thinking the metal has taken a back seat, crafting an alluring chorus haunting sounds; somehow incorporating twinkling pianos and not sounding annoyingly out-of-place. Quite a beautiful track. The latter is the climax of the record, possibly my favorite and very enchanting. Quiet and ghostly and ramps up to overwhelming but never coming unhinged.

Rainfall and silence. Remember that bass? Damn do the riffs on “Inner Female” kill. By the time the female vocals split through the distortion those grooves have begun their spell in full force; a few choice harmonics punctuating the heavy rhythm satisfyingly. It definitely has a very ethereal atmosphere by the end, aided greatly by those synths.

Having said that, a lean towards the rapt has not loosened the grip of metal on this project. As is made clear in tracks like “Daymare”, the change in production can allow that more fundamental ‘black’ metal quality to return with full force, scratching and galloping into some stunning territory. It's a bright track and one of my favorites and rivals “No Sympathy For Demanding Idols” off the previous record. Excellent vocals, it’s a monster by the end that whirls and roars coldly with a melancholic tone thriving in the lo-fi environment.

Yes the opener “Inamorata” shows a different side of this, the anguished cries over a looping rhythm unceasing with a final spectral push into the wicked "Daymare". So too do “Draw Me Down The Moon”, “Solar Piexus” and “The Curator” (both nearly nine minutes) which all bring the aggressive chime-like tremolo progressions, chunky rhythms, and stormy percussion as they have evolved between records.

The assault of “The Curator” accompanied by creepy, slithery singing,  is only interrupted midway through for ambient/noise manipulation, and that leads into some really chunky riffing and modulated female screams to close. Some of the lead’s vocals after the gap stray into quirky Daughters territory and amongst the crushing, dragging cacophony it works to their advantage.

So by the time we’re stretching into the second half of A Maze Of Evenings after multiple listens things are becoming clearer. Night Heir have given themselves both the span of time between records and the overall length on this record to allow for growth and breathing room. The clean and quiet elements taking as strong a role as the louder metal infused ones, but far more concentrated and focused than in their previous effort.

The result is some contrasting and very stunning sounds on both ends of their unique spectrum. The two “Inviolate” intros, “Theme From Slowland”, “Inner Female”, and “The Wheel” all creep on you but are no less captivating and creative than the more blunt attack. Tracks like “The Wheel”, a gentle throb bursting with radiance that starts quiet and almost loses control, but never dropping the meditation while gaining in aggression. A wobbly and entrancing trip.

Even “Solar Piexus” which contains mounting craggy riffs for a time (almost in oldschool Melechesh fashion) dives deep into a dark and contemplative chasm for a time. The gulf of quiet after the shredding just over three minutes in is breath-taking, the gentle atmosphere is thick and cool with organ keys and the splashes of percussion lighting up the dark. When the return to distortion is made over mourning hymns it’s heavy as the ocean from which their bursting forth.

I think near the end of this record is where it gets more intriguing, the contrasts continuing.

First we have “The Snakewife” which I think is one of the more interesting or surprising songs here just in terms of the switch off in styles and tones from the beginning to middle, and then the slow change thereafter. At seven minutes it’s almost noise-scape-y at first with a slight creeping horror veneer: off kilter, severely slowed-down, almost twilight-circus styled tones melt through feedback which in turn builds into howling and screaming synth — really nice — and finally gives way to bleak, hypnotic riffs as the build behind gets louder.

Suddenly the style changes again into something that feels more oldschool death-thrash, and the vocals fall in line as well. It’s bizarre but enjoyable especially as the track progresses, the drumming becomes more complex and the vocals are spiked with clean howls.

Then you follow this up with “Theme From Slowland”, which is somewhat self-explanatory I suppose, and you have a decent span of music in just these two tracks that tries and succeeds at exploring new ways of combining influences. This track is simple, clean and smooth in the vein of True Widow but less groove oriented, employing some beautiful vocals from both genders as it slinks along. I’d even say it begins to develop a slight Neurosis flavor (Enemy of the Sun era perhaps) just after halfway but it recedes by the end.

A huge and memorable song for sure. Subtle effects behind the build at points really make the track powerful. There’s not confusion or haphazardness in their placement or structure either, it works quite well. Right into the more shrieking blackened gloom of “Draw Me Down The Moon” (Beherit pun?) which when combined with “Inner Female” make for a fuckin wicked climax on this record’s end.

Final verdict? Fucking home run all the way for this humble outfit and A Maze Of Evenings. Black metal? Maybe, how about yes just to bug people. Regardless of its label it’s a wonderful record that will probably be passed over and be relegated to lost gem status years from now much like their first. It will no doubt be on my year end list.

All things considered there’s not a lot wrong with A Maze Of Evenings (length is debatable, after a few listens it doesn't seem long at all) and a whole bunch right with it. The time and effort over the last few years have clearly paid off with a rewarding record that retains originality. Night Heir continue to be awesome and interesting, and hard to place.

Please go support this project by paying what you can for this record if you’re able to, of course over on bandcamp. It is up for free for now, no physical release yet but I assume (like the previous album) a cassette may be in the future so keep an eye on that. I’ll update this post once that shit’s a reality.



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