The latest from New York-based Yellow Eyes, Sick With Bloom, presents itself as a wounded animal in the Carpathian forest. Its six tracks have some successes in musical episodes that show themselves to be majestic and pagan, explosive and unruly. There are moments of menace within the requisite blast beats, strangled screams, and tremolo picking guitar patterns, but they remain isolated incidents; the hopelessness fails to take root.
Here are some facts: Yellow Eyes is, at its blackened heart, a duo of Will (vocals, guitar) and Sam Skarstad (guitar); the album also features M. Rekevics (Fell Voices, Vanum, Vorde) on drums, and Alex DeMaria handles bass duties when they play live. Field recordings from northern woods of Connecticut, including frogs in a marsh, a thunderstorm barreling through, wind-driven percussion hanging somewhere outside a cabin are woven throughout the record, tacked on as introductions and affixed as intended elegies. Acoustic (grandpas) guitars and wind chimes, along with a smidge of what seems to be monks chanting religious devotion, close out the record.
The two standout tracks for me were “The Mangrove, the Presever” and “What Filters Through the Copper Stain.” These both showcase the record’s very rich and guitar-heavy mix, which, the internet tells me was recorded on analogue tape. It’s a wonderfully sinister feeling to be enveloped by these powerfully dense guitars and their mighty riffs – like walls of sound closing in – not unlike the trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars. (I solemnly swear that I will do my best to work in a Star Wars reference for any and all reviews.) Then there are the outstanding torturous shrieks by guitarist/vocalist Will Skarstad; his quality of voice suggests the unpredictability and inevitability of a violent bird of prey carrying off a small child to devour it.
However, there seems to be a lack of long-form compositional purpose to each of these songs. Ultimately, not much riffage sticks, rather, they remain organized groupings of patterns. Blast beats and breakdowns buoy the barrage of thick guitar layers, yet listening attention strays. An arpeggiated riff holds the ear for a fleeting moment here, then gives way too soon. There, a doomy breakdown gives the necessary breathing space and is threateningly lovely. It’s too bad that there isn’t further musical exploration/exploitation of these good ideas; this listener wishes that these sharp and poignant flashes of promise might linger and/or fester to develop into the fatal wounds that the band must surely intend. The closing track’s double-guitar assault before the drums and bass erupt is another such tingly moment of evil, where this listener is left wanting more.
I wanted to be bowled over by these Brooklyn hometown heroes, especially because of the Gilead Media imprint. But, there was no sickness induced, nor demons summoned. Regrettably, skulls were pummeled but left uncrushed.