Sunday, May 13, 2018

Eagle Twin making early bid for Album of the Year

In the beginning was the scream... and it was good.  The duo that comprise Eagle Twin, Gentry Densley (guitar and vocals) and Tyler Smith (drums), have been making music together since 2009 under that moniker and The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn is their third long-playing offering, the first being 2009's retelling of the creation myth via crow iconography The Unkindness Of Crows and the second 2012's conversion of the avian characters to the serpentine, The Feather Tipped The Serpent's Scale.  The third album see's the band move the tale further along the food chain, dealing with herd animals of the mid-western United States, such as prong-horned antelope, the mighty elk, the buffalo, etc.

The story so far, on the debut album Densley spins the tale of the Crows, borrowing bits from several sources, including Upton Sinclair, Japanese Haikus, Mormon hymnals, Native American myths, and heavily from poet Ted Hughes who penned the Crow and is husband to Sylvia Plath.  On The Unkindness Of Crows  the birds waged a war on the sun and were burned, they fell to earth blackened and writhing and took the form of snakes.  During the course of the second album the snakes balled themselves up and sprouted horns and became herd animals.  That's where we come in on The Thundering Heard: Songs Of Hoof and Horn.  Okay, you're all caught up.

Drums and Tuvan throat singing grab the listener by the balls upon the needle first dropping on the opening track, "Quanah Un Rama."  This tune means business. Densley possess a growling, guttural vocal delivery, and considering the towering mythological subject matter, and it's distinct manliness by nature with its hunting overtones, it suits.  The guitar riffs are aggressive and match, nay, exceed Densley vocal's.   And Smith's drumming is just so complimentary.  He goes unnoticed in much of this review, I have noted upon rereading it, but it's because of his skill, not because of a lack of talent.

(Editor's Note:  An interesting aside,  I attempted to track down the meaning of "Quanah Un Rama" and found that Quanah Parker was the last Comanche Chief, named chief by the U.S. government not by tribal council, and that his first name was given to him by his mother when he was a child and he kept it to honor her as an adult and it meant "stinky one.")

"Elk Wolfv Hymn" starts in a much more peaceful manner compared to the previous tune, more on the psychedelic side of Eagle Twin's palette of sound.  It builds in intensity as Densley tells tale of wolves tracking down and encircling a great stag as crows look on and keep watch.  I love his story telling, and his vocals, Lemmy would be proud.

 Side Two.  "Heavy Hoof" was the lead single for this record and with good reason.  "The heavy hoof clips, the heavy hoof clops.  The heavy hoofs dance on your grave."  The guitar is just so menacing here, with a such a sludgy low end, and considering there really is no bass, its all the more impressive.  The soloing on "Heavy Hoof" is just the most exciting on the record, and on a record of this caliber, that is really saying something.  This track just KILLS!

"Antlers of Lighting (Hooves of Thunder)" closes out the album, as a mighty storm stirs up and lightning strikes the great stag's rack of antlers.  This track features soaring, searing guitar riffs, matching the electrified lyrics, "white veins of lightning."  Indeed.  Some of Tyler Smith's best drum work on the album comes in this song near the end of the lyrics in my opinion, right before the soloing starts to escalate into a white-hot burn. 

"I live I die I bleed."

This circle of life seems complete, but where will Eagle Twin go next?

What a thrill ride in 41:32.  Flip this sucker back over and play it again. This is a true candidate for Album of the Year even at this early stage in the game.  It's a little odd in subject matter, but I think that's a bonus.  I'm not in a habit of giving out perfect scores for records, but damned if this isn't two already this year, 100/100.  Get this album.  You'll be glad you did.

And, if you would like a primer on where to start with Eagle Twin's back catalog, here's the 411.  On the debut, I recommend the 15-minute epic "Crow Hymn," "Carry on, Carrion King" and the album's denouement, "And it came to pass that birds fell to earth as black snakes."  If you can find it, there is the split disc with Pombargira that includes the pulsating "I Come From a Long Line Of Dead Men."  Track two also comes from Eagle Twin, the jazzy "Blackfoot Messiah / River Girl Song."  It's worth checking out as well.  Jams to groove to off the second full length release include the counter-point to the debut's mid-point, the aptly titled "Snake Hymn" this time which checks in at over 12 minutes in length.  Also, the repetitive "Horn Snake Horns / It Came to Pass the Snakes Became Mighty Antlers."  The second half of the split, which consists of the final two minutes, is purely instrumental jam and some of my favorite riffs on the record.

It's taken Eagle Twin 10 years to advance the story line this far and the mind boggles at where philosophically the tale may be heading next.  But in the meantime, we have Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn to tide us over.  It is destined for a number of those end of the year Best of Lists in my opinion.  The record has already worked it's way into high rotation here in my collection since the hard copy arrived last week.  Sadly, I'm a late-comer to Eagle Twin, only discovering them with this release.

From the band's web site:
Eagle Twin is two beasts, operating in a spectrum of duality.  Eagle Twin is finesse and power.  Eagle Twin combines the power of the riff with the freeness of jazz.  Eagle Twin is the serpent and the crow.  Eagle Twin is Gentry Densley and Tyler Smith.

Eagle Twin's Home.
Eagle Twin on Bandcamp.

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