June 11, 2014

Eight Bells - The Captain's Daughter

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Based in Portland, OR, Eight Bells are the new project founded by Melynda Jackson, formerly of SubArachnoid Space. After shuttering that project in 2011 (their final album was also titled Eight Bells), Jackson started Eight Bells out of the ashes, bringing along drummer Chris Van Huffel and adding bassist Haley Westeiner, a classically trained musician who plays a six-string instrument. Together, they perform musical experiments, pushing the possibilities of heavy music in multiple directions, plumbing the depths and filth of black metal and sludge while also reaching towards the galactic heights of prog and psychedelia.

The anchor of the record is the guitar playing, both treble and bass, with the vocals serving as embellishment and the drums providing the engine. Instrumental opener "Tributaries" challenges the listener while also serving as a gateway to the rest of the record. It is the final two songs, the titular track and "Yellowed Wallpaper" (the latter of which is a reference to the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which deals with Victorian notions of madness, hysteria and crippling boredom), which form the core of the release. "The Captain's Daughter," in particular, is a violent, virulent, lovely track, exquisitely engineered and as merciless as the multi-tailed whip from which it draws its name.

The challenge of engineering this complex record was admirably met by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, Agalloch), who knows exactly when to smoke the glass, smear it with Vaseline or buff it to a crustal shine. The Captain's Daughter is an extraordinary debut that bodes extremely well for the future. Almost Victorian in its elegance and graceful complication, Eight Bells have created a masterpiece that is part clockwork, part cameo and a little bit mad.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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