And now the Owls are Smiling – Dirges

Paul Hutchings takes a listen to the upcoming release from this one man black metal project!

Crashing waves, a pulsing heartbeat and anthemic chanting; the sound of Dirge I: Grief, the opening segment to this eight-part atmospheric journey into black metal by North Norfolk son Nre. And Now the Owls Are Smiling is his solo project and album number three comes rapidly after his 2020 EP The Isolation Sessions.

The challenge for this type of project is to grab the attention for the entire album, and it starts well with Dirge II: Rejection which begins with a calmly paced intro but all the time there is the inevitable explosion into shimmering walls of tremolo riffing and frantic blast beats. Demonic vocals are always a bit marmite in black metal, and Nre’s are no exception. The inevitable harrowing roar and guttural lower keys are virtually indistinguishable for most of this album. It’s not a deal breaker for me, as I rarely understand BM lyrics unless I have them in front of me. What matters here is the song construction and Nre utilises his obvious talent to explore and expand.

As I’m not familiar with his previous music I’m taking this cold. The break arrives around halfway, a simple bass line and atmospheric synths allowing a breather from the raging maelstrom, before dragging everything back into the glistening vortex. As the chapters unfold, there is ample for the black metal fan to sink those sharpened fangs into. The soaring pace and melody of Dirge III: Darkness rarely slows but captures the intense feeling. Many tracks are lengthy, clocking in at well past the seven-minute mark so there is a relief in the Solstafir edge to Dirge V: Lucidity, which provides exactly what is needed at this juncture. A simple riff and some synths provide sufficient recovery time.

I’m not often a fan of solo artists in this genre. There tends to be too much focus on the sound and not enough on the rawness necessary to keep things interesting. And yet, Dirges does hold the attention well. There is an anthemic epic feel to Dirge VI: Pointlessness despite the dark feel and whilst there is an element of the home-produced feel, overall, this is an album that is likely to appeal to many who enjoy the intensity and celebration of their sound.

And Now The Owls Are Smiling – Dirges is released on Clobber Records on the 29th January 2021

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