Artist: Eight Bells
Album Title: Legacy Of Ruin
Label: Prophecy Productions
Date of Release: 25 February 2022
Had I not been recommended this album on social media I may still be blissfully unaware of its existence. Eight Bells is not a name with which I am familiar but I’m all for exploring new musical avenues these days. The fact that this album finds itself on Prophecy Productions, a label with a reputation of quality, meant that I was given an extra incentive to give this one a go.
For those equally unfamiliar with Eight Bells, they are an entity formed by Subarachnoid Space guitarist and vocalist Melynda Jackson back in 2010. ‘Legacy Of Ruin’ is the third full-length release under the Eight Bells moniker, although the line-up differs greatly from previous albums. In fact, Jackson is the only ever-present, joined on ‘Legacy Of Ruin’ by bassist Matt Solis (Cormorant, Ursa) and No Shores and Cave Dweller drummer Brian Burke, with guest appearances from vocalist/keyboardist Melynda Marie Amann on a couple of tracks, and violinist Andrea Morgan on three songs.
Billed as ‘avant-garde doom’ by their label, Eight Bells are very difficult to accurately describe in a pithy manner. They create an intriguing sound by blending a number of different styles together, everything from doom metal to prog rock, and more extreme sounds like black metal, to death metal. There’s a strong 70s vibe to the music too, both in terms of the sounds that emanate within the music, as well as a demonstrable organic feel to the performances and the production. This isn’t a polished and glossy affair although the clear production does perfectly suit the gloomy, miserable compositions.
What I also like about ‘Legacy Of Ruin’, as well as the authenticity and care that has been taken over its creation, is that there is something within each and every one of the six tracks that makes me sit up and take notice. Generally, this materialises in the form of a gorgeous melody, or a moment of real beauty to counteract the gloom. But sometimes, it is also present in the form of a clever shift in tempo, intensity, or a lovely piece of instrumentalism from one or more of the trio. When I referenced ‘prog’ earlier, I need to be clear that you’re not to expect mind-bending virtuosity as such, but more in terms of the competing ideas, and the intelligent ebb and flow to the music. The execution is definitely of the highest order, but rampaging instrumental gymnastics is certainly nota feature of the Eight Bells modus operandi.
The album opens with a dark, dystopian feel, full of atmosphere, embellished by almost ghostly choral vocals from Jackson and Solis. Almost imperceptively, only a gentle guitar remains, plucking at a few lonely notes, before the full metallic force is brought to bear with slow, doom-laden riffs, resonant and dancing bass lines, and a solid drumbeat. Quick as a flash though, the pace quickens into something more black metal-like with fast-picked cold riffing at the heart of the maelstrom. The lead guitar melody line that emerges is beautiful, and you can hear the organic nature of the recording in the sound of the drums, as they feel alive, especially when we get a nice double pedal flourish at points along the way. Those melodies that featured earlier are reprised later in the track to create more cohesion and an epic, rousing finale that’s impressive to say the least.
At over eleven minutes in length, ‘The Well’ is the longest of the compositions. It could have been a real drag were it not for the sheer quality that shows through along the journey. It builds nicely too, from quiet and subdued beginnings that stretch to over three minutes, to something a lot more potent in the fullness of time. However, the melodic section that arrives at just shy of four minutes may be short-lived, but it acts as a lovely gateway into more extreme territory, complete with more black metal style riffing. There’s also room for a touch of post rock musings, as well as the serenity of something altogether more ambient and shoegaze-y. This ambitious monolithic song has just about everything, but crucially, it maintains my attention at every turn, whilst returning to earlier motifs and ideas to ensure the composition feels recognisable.
Totalling ten minutes together, ‘Torpid Dreamer’ and ‘Nadir’ are the shortest tracks on ‘Legacy Of Ruin’. The former features some of the heaviest, bruising riffs on the album, as well as having a more extreme edge to it within the loose confines of Eight Bells’ doom framework. The latter is quite possibly my favourite of the six purely because it’s the most immediate for my tastes. The intro is warm, inviting, and less morose, almost elegant, whilst it’s also a heavy beast once it gets going. The melodies are also some of the strongest too, enhanced by more choral vocal harmonies and arresting yet simple lead guitar work, which segues into a killer crescendo at the end.
It feels a little unfair not mentioning the final two tracks, ‘The Crone’ and ‘Premonition’ in more detail. However, I feel that I ought to leave you to take a listen and discover these songs yourself having delved deeper into others. What I will say it, watch out for the gorgeous bittersweet intro and later extreme metal attack of ‘The Crone’, as well as the occasional gruff vocals that appear within ‘Premonition’, a song of two halves where the weight of the world’s misery seems to pour out of the speakers in the form of aching funeral doom in the second half.
If someone had told me I’d be listening to 70s infused, organic doom metal with an adventurous, progressive edge, I’d have probably never have checked out ‘Legacy Of Ruin’. On paper, it just doesn’t sound like the kind of thing to float my boat. As it turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong. I have to be in the right kind of mood to appreciate it but appreciate it I certainly do. I really like the variety that’s effortlessly explored, whilst never sacrificing the enjoyment of each of the songs, or the overall identity of the band. I commend the efforts of Eight Bells in creating ‘Legacy Of Ruin’, a rather excellent and intelligent avant-garde doom metal offering around which I recommend you wrap your ears.
The Score of Much Metal: 89%
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