I’ve always really wanted to love Eight Bells but ended up “just” enjoying them. Something about the way they approached their compositions and especially vocals left me wanting more; the albums always felt “empty”, as if more was bubbling underneath the surface but never fully materializing. Like a large object glimpsed through fog that then disappears when you reach out for it. However, whatever lurks beneath the surface of Eight Bells has finally decided to burst, fully fleshed and arrayed in a panoply of armaments, in the form of Legacy of Ruin. The album very much continues Eight Bells’ style of ethereal, haunting doom but splices it with more dynamic and muscular riffs, drums, and vocals for a new, and markedly improved, version of the band’s sound. It is still an album to sink into to be sure, but it also affords the listener with more footholds on their way down.

This “firmer” approach to composition can be heard from the get go. “Destroyer”, which opens the album, starts off with one of the more viscerally satisfying doom riffs I’ve heard in the last few months. Nor does it stop there; the track continues to unfold in a very forceful way, blending the by-now signature dreamy vocals of the band with incredibly powerful gutturals. These are also backed up by blast-beats and faster riffs, under an acerbic, black metal quality to the track that is hard to deny or to resist being moved by. Later on, when the more ephemeral choirs and arrangements return, they are all the more impactful for following the noisier elements. Of course, those same elements then make their own comeback, setting us up for the dissolution of the track into the echoing chords of the next track which follows it.

“The Well”, that selfsame track which comes next, contains many of the elements which we recognize as Eight Bells. It’s clear the band are still interested in exploring, and creating, the kind of emotional doom their fans have grown to love from them. The track is interesting because it gives more credence and center place to these doom elements, with its slow, considered main riff and airy choir vocals. But on the other hand, and much to the band’s credit, the track also doubles down even further on the heavier, more dynamic elements and configurations we mentioned above with monstrous riffs book-ending both sides of the quieter, more contemplative meat of the track.

This mix is what makes Legacy of Ruin so appealing. On it, Eight Bells are definitely still the same ponderous, fog-drenched, and haunted doom band they’ve always been. But they’ve also dug deep and slung their nets wide, gathering up new sounds, techniques, and approaches to the core of their music. The end result is an album which is more moving for being more aggressive, somehow even more thoughtful and introspective for often going fast and hard. It is Eight Bells as I’ve always wanted to hear them and their first album I can proudly say I wholeheartedly adore.

Legacy of Ruin was released on February 25th via Prophecy Productions. You can grab it via the band’s Bandcamp above.