Owl’s self-titled debut was released in early 2011. It was a cavernous and atmospheric recording that displayed allegiance to the old-school aesthetic. It was timely, as other bands were jumping on the OSDM bandwagon. But it was also a flawed release that did not embody the talent of the players involved. It was also an exception in the Zeitgeister catalog, as no other band in the collective had yet explored death metal.
You Are the Moon, I Am the Night is somewhat less obsessed with atmosphere. There’s still an ambient track and two of the three proper songs are more concerned with constructing a soundscape rather than bruising the listener’s eardrums.
The title track starts with a couple seconds of noise. Then a heavy-handed and completely unsubtle riff comes in. Within 30 seconds of play time, the album distinguishes itself from its predecessor, for the better. There is an energy and a sense of immediacy that seemed wholly missing from the previous release. The track twists and turns through a number of different riffs, notably a very simple two-note line that first occurs around the six-minute mark. Guitarist and singer Christian Kolf’s vocals are strong throughout and there is nary a hint of the idiosyncratic cleans that many would associate with him from his work in Valborg and Skarab.
The pace of the album is generally slow to medium. This would be a problem if the guitar figures weren’t so enthralling. Patrick Schroeder’s drumming is solid; on this release he seems to have brought a bit more fluidity to his playing, with some especially impressive fills.
I thought the chanting section in the last few minutes of the title track went a little long. Thankfully, some of the better riffs underpin it, so it’s not completely tiresome. Another minor complaint I might have is that “Memories of Dead Dreams” relies a little too heavily on suspended chords and doesn’t create as much tension as the other two songs.
But let’s not lose sight of one simple fact: You Are the Moon, I Am the Night is not just better than Owl’s previous album, it’s one of the better albums of 2013.
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