Album Review: Eard — “De Rerum Natura”

We’ve said it before on the podcast (specifically on the most recent episode), but I will echo the sentiments here: the most interesting thing that can be done with black metal is to mix it thoroughly with things that are not black metal.  I could not possibly care less about what wave is the best or any trve kvlt nonsense.  Black metal is never more exciting or interesting than when it is a color on the palette as opposed to the entire painting.  Enter, then, Eard and their unique take on the nature-inspired black metal formula De Rerum Natura.   

Eard (from the Old English for land, country or home) is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist MK and harpist Glorya Lyr, whose unconventional instrument becomes the centerpiece of their particular brand of nature-inspired and mournful black metal.  While it might not seem to be the most intuitive combination, the duo has already backdoor piloted this combination by both being featured on the exemplary Forgotten Paths by Saor, on the song “Exile,” and with that successful beta testing, they chose to continue to weave Celtic harps into the black metal formula full time.  On De Rerum Natura, the duo craft a “poetic investigation of human nature,” one that is “familiar yet extremely personal” and one that uses the harp as the primary “voice” in the music.  Eard have no singer in a traditional sense, and while several of the songs on De Rerum Natura feature guest singers, the point is to showcase the harp as a melodic instrument and the centerpiece of the songs, most of which center around Old English and Italian poetics, as well as some smattering of Celtic lore and inspiration from nature.

Obviously, the harp is going to be the star of the show here.  There is almost nothing else out there that sounds like De Rerum Natura, or very many other metal bands that I can think of that would utilize the harp as a primary instrument (Obsequiae might be the only other one I can think of), but if you’re going to use it at all in a metal context, I can think of nowhere better than over a backdrop of atmospheric black metal.  It’s one of those pairings that, even though it’s probably not the first thing you think of when you think of pairing black metal with something else, it just makes sense.  The mix of the raw, emotional atmospheric black metal with the delicate melodies of the harp go together like peanut butter and chocolate, like hot sauce and chicken, like a bagel with cream cheese.  They compliment each other so well I feel like it should have been much more obvious to do this.  Opener “Nocturnal Landscapes” captures an almost Woods of Desolation feel with the instrumentation and the way the gentle intro of the harp swells and grows into a ripping black metal stampede under howled vocals.  It really should be noted that, while the harp is going to understandably get most of the attention, MK’s ability to craft solid, deeply emotional black metal is what anchors the whole affair and is just as much a part of the success of De Rerum Natura as anything else.  Closer “Eardstapa” is a perfect example of how the classic black metal formula works on its own merits for this band.  The harps don’t even kick in until the halfway point of the song, but you don’t really miss them because the black metal is so good.

Eard may have just stumbled upon a winning formula, and on their debut, no less.  You’re guaranteed something truly unique in De Rerum Natura, but more than that, it’s just a really great piece of music.  There are definitely ways the duo could have bungled this, but they avoided all the pitfalls by leaning into a solid foundation of black metal and focusing on what matters: deep emotional connections to the music before anything else.  It’s well worth your time to pick this one up.

– Ian

De Rerum Natura will be available September 24 on Avantgarde Music.  For more information on Eard, visit their Facebook page.

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