When The Flight of Sleipnir first came on my radar, it was when I was looking for more doom bands, and someone recommended them to me as a doom outfit to scratch that itch, which they did, but digging even centimeters deeper into their discography shows a band that cannot, and refuses to, be categorized as any one thing in particular. Ever changing and constantly moving like the horse they take their name from, they never quite seem to make the same album twice, and on Eventide, the band further progress their sound while blending in touches of their roots.
The Denver, CO, ensemble has existed since 2007 and serves as an outlet for primary songwriters David Csicsely (who plays the drums and sings) and Clayton Cushman (bass, guitars and engineering) to explore musical and lyrical themes related to ancient Scandinavian literature. In doing so, they have dabbled in a sonic palette that includes a smattering of the aforementioned doom, but also black metal, post-rock, prog, folk and country. On Eventide, the band crafts what they describe as their most sparse and stark album to date, focusing heavily on shifting dynamics, tension and release and an emphasis on softness over crushing heaviness (not that this isn’t a heavy album, mind you). Lyrically, the album explores themes of nighttime and its vast mysteries, dreams, and darkness. Despite what might seem to be dark (pun intended) subject matter, the album bursts with warm melody, serene beauty and delicate intricacies that shift and wind through all of the aforementioned genres and styles, but incorporating new elements of what sounds to me almost like 90’s grunge and twinkly Midwestern guitar lines.
The band tries a little bit of everything here, but they succeed where others fail because of two very important factors: everything is in service of the song, and each song has its own distinct identity, rather than being a mashup of everything all at once. Opener “Volund” features some lush, grungy chord strumming before everything else drops out and the softness takes over with not-quite-psychedelic, slightly proggy, clean lead lines bringing the tension down. “Thaw” is arguably the doomiest track on the album and the one that sounds the most like what I thought Eventide would sound like, with mournful and somber melodies and progressions exploring the darker parts of nighttime. I think the real surprise of the album comes with “Bathe the Stone in Blood,” which starts life as an honest-to-god country song, complete with acoustic strumming and swelling pedal steel, before launching into a post-black metal stomp. As disparate as all these influences sound, what holds them all together is the exploration of dynamics throughout the album. Every composition features an interplay of crushing heaviness giving way to soft, gentle lead guitar work and then back again. Everything flows so incredibly well on every track, so that despite the change in feel and dynamics, you’re never suddenly jarred from one mindset to the next. In fact, it’s really easy to get lost in Eventide. There’s something intangible about Cushman and Csicsely’s songwriting that just…feels like nighttime. I don’t really know how to describe it better than that. There is an effortlessness to the way that the tracks paint a picture in your mind of sleeping outside under a blanket of stars as the chilly night air stirs dreams up from the depths of consciousness.
Eventide might simultaneously be The Flight of Sleipnir’s most ambitious and most accessible album to date. Eschewing sonic density for clearer melodies and more sonic exploration, the band find success here in the strength of their ability to create not just music, but a tapestry that tells a cohesive story, one that is both ancient and perennial. One thing is for certain, though: Eventide is a once in a lifetime album, because the next one The Flight of Sleipnir makes will probably sound totally different.