The Owls Are Not What They Seem has been getting into listeners’ heads with dark and unsettling music for quite a few years now, and while the lineup has changed slightly in that time Bobby Yagodich and company have continued to deliver a cohesive experience that transports you to an entirely different realm. For the group’s fourth full length Feral Blood the focus is once again on a seamless experience spread across fifteen tracks, with elements of ambient, dark folk, and even a little black metal coming together to intrigue and terrify. It may prove to be a little out there for some of this reading audience but for those of you who are more adventurous this album is worth carving out an hour of your time for, preferably with the lights off so you can get completely lost in all its textures.
Compared to Hearth, Feral Blood comes across as a bit more subdued in tone but proves to be just as creepy and foreboding. Where the group previously had the tendency to move from softer, earthier tonality into nightmarish, noisy climaxes that made it feel like you were being sacrificed on a stone altar, this time around the harsher moments are a bit more spread out and have a hazier, psychedelic feel. The Bandcamp description calls it a “primordial vision quest” and this proves to be accurate as there’s more personal and intimate vibe to this recording compared to before, with the droning and ritualistic instrumentation giving off imagery of wandering through the wilderness in a drug infused haze gone wrong where it’s unclear if what you’re experiencing is real or not. It’s hard to pin it down to a specific genre, but those who orient towards dark ambient and more freeform experimental music will find plenty to appreciate in The Owls Are Not What They Seem. Feral Blood demands a lot of its audience with its lengthier run-time and nuances that can be hard to pick out the first time through, but the group understands just when to shift gears as a droning passage starts to run its course and holds your attention for the entire album.
The instrumental work provides plenty of creepy tonality that will have you glancing over your shoulder, but the vocals are what pushes the atmosphere into another realm entirely. The Owls Are Not What They Seem doesn’t stay in the same place for too long, often transitioning between clean chants that tie into the ritualistic nature of the songwriting to much harsher distorted screams that come off as inhuman. But that’s not even the strangest you’ll get here, as “Red” has the kind of garbled speech similar to what you’d get when you’d play certain albums backwards in decades past, and it only serves to further drive you towards madness. There’s a lot of smaller details to this aspect of the album as well, and where a lot of other bands use limited vocal ranges here they’re expansive and unpredictable.
Feral Blood isn’t a significant change from the type of otherworldly and ritualistic atmospherics that this group has offered on their previous records, but it finds them continuing to hone their craft to its most potent level. There’s a noticeable focus on creepy tonality that will make you hallucinate as you close your eyes to its madness, and while it’s less claustrophobic and aggressive than its predecessor this album proves to be just as exciting to explore. Feral Blood is out now from Eleventh Key Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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