Birdwatching with Eagle Twin

There's a crow in there somewhere.With “In the Beginning Was the Scream,” the spastic opening track of Eagle Twin‘s Southern Lord debut, The Unkindness of Crows, it’s almost as though the duo of vocalist/guitarist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith want to prepare their audience for anything. The track starts with throat singing and quickly moves into distorted free jazz (read: noise), before devolving into five minutes of despondent drone metal that culminates in wild and cautiously melodic riffing, more noise and, finally, silence. Wherever else they could go from there, it would be hard to throw in a surprise.

Or so you might think, until the Goatsnake-style opening riff of “Murder of…” leads into lumbering Melvins doom and Gentry‘s near-growled vocals — he’s been compared to Tom Waits, not sure if I agree across the board, but he’s throaty and I think that’s what everyone means by it — that carries across an agonizing 12 minutes of ornithologically-themed legend. Every song on The Unkindness of Crows has something to do with crows, ravens or birds in general, in lyric if not title, though the only track without a titular reference is the above-noted opener. Throughout the rest of the album, “10,000 Birds of Black Hot Fire,” “Storytelling of Ravens,” “Crow Hymn,” “Carry on, King of Carrion” and closer “And it Came to Pass that Birds Fell to Earth as Black Snakes” keep a running aesthetic of naturalistic musical darkness and semi-decipherable winged narration.

Densley just found that cat hanging out by the purple wall. That's how it goes in SLC.Densley‘s guitar tone is hyper-amped, matching his gravelly vocals and the deep, steady, atmospheric drumming from Smith. The duo vary speeds and approaches throughout The Unkindness of Crows, as the speedier riffing halfway through “10,000 Birds of Black Hot Fire” and the steady, Neurosis-style atmosphere of “Storytelling of Ravens” attest, but if Eagle Twin have anything going for them beyond the doom clout immediately given their name because of Densley‘s involvement with Greg Anderson in last year’s Ascend album, Ample.Fire.Within, it’s an ability to keep a measured consistency of tone despite the directions actually being explored. One imagines it’s here that having only two players in the band is the most convenient. The original vision appears on the album compromised and at its full potency.

The 15-minute “Crow Hymn” probably could have closed the record, but the additional combined 13 minutes of “Carry on, King of Carrion” and “And it Came to Pass that Birds Fell to Earth as Black Snakes,” particularly the former, manage to sneak in some of The Unkindness of Crows‘ most memorable moments. “Carry on, King of Carrion” relies on a more laid back mood, like Scott Kelly singing over Earth to a slow build and gaining heaviness with each repeat of the title line, and “And it Came to Pass that Birds Fell to Earth as Black Snakes” shifts into dark psychedelia with ease before reaching its musical apex, fading up with feedback and then out for good. It’s a track more powerful in its structure than execution, but a satisfying finale all the same.

After reading so many reviews and getting tired of writers pretending to have been down with Iceburn “back in the day,” finally hearing this first offering from the Salt Lake City duo turned out to be well worth the time. Granted, the Ascend connection and touring with SunnO))) will no doubt push The Unkindness of Crows into an echelon of beardo hipness that might border on disgusting (if it hasn’t already), but if you sift through the drooling trend hoppers and actually get a chance to listen to these songs, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

Eagle Twin on MySpace

Southern Lord Recordings

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2 Responses to “Birdwatching with Eagle Twin”

  1. Mike says:

    I?m not a bearded hipster, but a goatee wearing, graying late 30?s old-fart, metalhead?.that being said I have enjoyed this album start to finish since I first heard it. There is something about it that I connect with?one of those intangibles that you would give money to be able to explain and happens far too rarely. I keep hoping that they pull into New England with Sunn O)))?further north than RI anyway?I?d really like to see these guys.

    Oh yeah, I must be missing something awesome too, because I?ve never heard Iceburn. Never heard of Gentry Densley either until someone recommended I check this out. I?m definitely not hip?.

    Also, the “blog issues” I mentioned seem to be gone. It was probably just me.

  2. Mike says:

    I think the band?s lyrical subject matter is very fitting for the type of music they are making. Read the following from Wikipedia and it begins to make almost too much sense the Densley would write songs about crows.

    ?Crows, and especially ravens, often feature in European legends or mythology as portents or harbingers of doom or death, because of their dark plumage, unnerving calls, and tendency to eat carrion*. They are commonly thought to circle above scenes of death such as battles.

    In occult circles, distinctions are sometimes made between crows and ravens. In mythology and folklore as a whole, crows tend to be symbolic more of the spiritual aspect of death, or the transition of the spirit into the afterlife, whereas ravens tend more often to be associated with the negative (physical) aspect of death.

    Compendium of Materia Medica states that crows are kind birds that feed their old and weakened parents; this is often cited as a fine example of filial piety.

    In mythology

    A very incomplete list of deities associated with ravens includes the eponymous Pacific Northwest Native figures Raven and Crow, the ravens Hugin and Munin, who accompany the Norse god Odin, the Celtic goddesses the M?rr?gan and/or the Badb (sometimes considered separate from M?rr?gan), and Shani, a Hindu god who travels astride a crow.

    In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Chaldean myth, the character Utnapishtim releases a dove and a raven to find land, however, the dove merely circles and returns. Only then does Utnapishtim send forth the raven, who does not return. Utnapishtim extrapolates from this that the raven has found land, which is why it hasn’t returned. This would seem to indicate some acknowledgement of crow intelligence, which may have been apparent even in ancient times, and to some might imply that the higher intelligence of crows, when compared to other birds, is striking enough that it was known even then.

    In Buddhism, the Dharmapala (protector of the Dharma) Mahakala is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms. Avalokite?vara/Chenrezig, who is reincarnated on Earth as the Dalai Lama, is often closely associated with the crow because it is said that when the first Dalai Lama was born, robbers attacked the family home. The parents fled and were unable to get to the infant Lama in time. When they returned the next morning expecting the worst, they found their home untouched, and a pair of crows were caring for the Dalai Lama. It is believed that crows heralded the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth, Twelfth and Fourteenth Lamas, the latter being the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Crows are mentioned often in Buddhism, especially Tibetan disciplines.

    The Child ballad The Three Ravens depicts three ravens discussing whether they can eat a dead knight, but finds that his hawk, his hound (this is also an iteresting story in itself and the meaning behind the name of the documentary, Such Hawks, Such Hounds – Mike), and his true love prevent them; in the parody version The Twa Corbies, these guards have already forgotten the dead man, and the ravens can eat their fill.

    *Carrion (from the Latin caro, meaning meat) refers to the carcass of a dead animal.

    The word carrion is often used in Swiss mythology to describe animals that have been sacrificed and animals that have been killed due to the god’s fury. Sometimes carrion is used to describe an infected carcass that is diseased and shouldn’t be touched. An example of carrion in literature is in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar with its line “this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, moaning for burial” (III.i), in which the word carrion implies that the bodies are rotting and infected with disease and bacteria. Another example can be found in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe when the title character kills an unknown bird for food but finds “its flesh was Carrion, and fit for nothing.” (excerpt from Wikipedia)

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