Metal has a longstanding relationship with nature as context, inspiration, and/or a driving force behind the music. Since their inception, black and folk metal in particular have shared an overwhelming fascination with the natural world, developing lyrical narratives and musical comparisons to that which is seen and heard in the wilderness. Historically, it could be reasonably argued that doom metal has found itself less intrinsically tied to these concepts on the whole. But don’t tell Eagle Twin that. Over a career now spanning nearly two decades, Utah’s Gentry Densley and Tyler Smith have created mercilessly heavy, sludge-infused doom metal that transcends simple genre boundaries in order to spawn something raw, organic, and as deeply tied to the soil as anything one would find in the Second Wave. With their third and long-awaited full-length record, The Thundering Heard, the band continue the narrative begun in their debut album The Unkindness of Crows and expanded upon in The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale. The results are nothing short of fantastic.
Though talking about an overarching “narrative” throughout these records may be a bit obtuse, if I’m being honest. The band utilized naturalistic and mythological imagery to great and abstract affect in their previous records, creating a kaleidoscope of stories that subtly guide the listener through a dank web of storytelling genius. But the stories being told in these records aren’t necessarily linear, instead pulling deeply from poetry, naturalistic imagery, folktales, and myth to create a world that feels simultaneously foreign and intensely immediate. The Thundering Heard does little to break this tradition, incorporating narrative elements from the band’s previous work to propel their esoteric stories to new and glorious heights. But Eagle Twin is very far from a traditional concept band. While narratives flow obviously and powerfully throughout their records, the band’s principal strength is the music. And boy oh boy is the music on The Thundering Heard exceptional. Operating as a doom metal band sans bassist, Eagle Twin’s music nevertheless provides plenty of heft and lower-register power. Smith’s absolutely thunderous drum work keeps the music rooted firmly in the doom metal tradition, while Densley’s crushing guitar work recalls the overarching fuzz of Goatsnake or Dark Castle with the songwriting adventurousness of Yob, fomenting in the unique sonic space in which the band operate. This unique approach to the genre can be readily heard from the opening notes of “Quanah Un Rama”, which incorporates acoustic and electric guitar stacked over Smith’s tribal drumming, which eventually explodes into a fierce tirade of open, cymbal-heavy passages that give the song an utterly epic feel. It would also be a glaring oversight to exclude Densley’s phenomenal vocal work here as well. His eerie throat singing coupled with that signature low, gristly, drunken delivery adds immense color and flavor to the instrumental proceedings.
But let’s be honest. Most who love doom metal as a genre aren’t here for the pageantry. In this space, the riff is god. If you find yourself in this riff-obsessed camp, fear not. Eagle Twin provide you with plenty of worship music. Whether through the crushing middle sections of the opening track or “Elk Wolfv Hymn”, there’s plenty here for the riff lover to sink their teeth into. But few of these heavier passages match the true obliteration that awaits listeners in “Heavy Hoof”. The centerpiece and highlight of the record, “Heavy Hoof” displays everything the band do well, jumping between quieter, groove-infused sections and monstrously heavy, obnoxiously loud bursts of riff nirvana with the ease of an obviously veteran band operating at peak performance. It’s a statement of guitar-based noise worship that is among the best tracks in the bands catalog. All of these sounds and textures culminate with purpose and vision in the album’s epic finale, “Antlers of Lightning”. Featuring a feedback-laden opening section that includes riffage on the Conan-level of heavy, the track slowly morphs and develops into a propulsive, speed-infused solo fest featuring some of Tyler Smith’s most mesmerizing drum work on the record. This is Smith’s time to shine, and he doesn’t waste a single second of opportunity, creating a cacophony as ferocious and compelling as you are likely to hear on a doom record this year. As the track fades into its soft finale, the listener can breathe a sigh of relief as the sonic brutalization undergone draws to a close. That is until you hit play again. Which you will. Because this record only gets more gnarly and brilliant with each new cycle, much like the natural world it focuses so intently on.
Everything one could want from a doom record is here. Fuzzy, expertly performed guitar work. Punishing, controlled yet explosive drumming. A production dynamic that allows these instruments to ring out in both exceptionally heavy and crystal clear ways. It’s a doom metal smorgasbord in which any fan of the genre will most assuredly find something to enjoy. Whether you dig metal drenched in naturalistic narratives or just want a place to worship the riff, Eagle Twin provide you with ample opportunity to revel. One of the most unique doom metal releases of the year thus far. Don’t skip out on this one. Highly recommended.
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The Thundering Heard is out now via Southern Lord Records, and is available for purchase at the band’s Bandcamp page.