Los Angeles based experimental black metal act Crowhurst are back with a vengeance on their new album II. Fans of last years self-titled album or even the act’s older works will have much to rejoice about.
Coming from the perspective of someone more well versed in Crowhurst’s solo harsh noise work, it was intriguing to hear that sound expanded upon within the context of a full band, especially given the caliber of musicians on this recording; keyboards, noise, and vocals were handled by Crowhurst main man Jay Gambit with all backing instruments played by Caïna’s Andy Curtis Brignell and additional guitars played by Aevangelist’s Matron Thorn. The addition of these two heavy hitters does wonders for the sound on II. Their contributions, while still recognizable by their distinct styles, never detract from the main vision of the album.
The opening instrumental “Cold Sweat” does a good job of bridging Crowhurst’s noise and metal sides while showcasing the thematic elements that comprise the remaining five songs on II: waves of noise paired with throbbing bass lines, spacey guitar motifs, and drums that make considerable use of cymbal hits and rolling patterns to add extra layers to the ominous atmosphere. Indeed, the listening experience created on II is what initially drew me in to the album. The term “post-apocalyptic” tends to be thrown around as a descriptor of various albums, yet I am hard pressed to think of an album that this effectively conjures images of a society in ruins like II does. Nowhere is this more effective than in the thirteen minute closer “Dried Blood and Old Earth”. Any semblance of structure found on previous tracks comes crumbling down as the album deconstructs and falls away on itself in washes of dissonant guitar notes, noise, and almost jazzy drum fills. The whole thing creates an anxious effect, like walking through a ruined city and not being sure if someone or something else is watching you.
The other reason that II stands out from the crowd is Crowhurst’s ability to keep a toe-hold in black metal while branching off into various other corners of the heavy music spectrum without feeling stretched too thin. Jay’s raspy, tortured howls and the occasional blast beats remind the listener where the album is grounded, yet there is a heavy dose of industrial music and noise rock present in the distorted bass lines and dissonant guitars, and on more than a few occasions Jay Gambit’s vocals veer into goth and post-punk territory (much to my own delight). Some tracks, like “No Saviors” could even be considered ‘danceable’. Even for all these varied influences, “II” never feels like a cluttered affair; elements of everything from Blut aus Nord to Love and Rockets can be found within, yet every piece has its place in the vision as a whole.
II is an album that is engaging, focused, and unique in sound and scope. It is necessary listening for anyone who is a fan of black metal, industrial music, noise rock, or anyone who seeks a challenging listen.