Denovali Records (2010)
Here’s one of those records that I find myself wanting to dislike yet continue to push play in an attempt to figure out why. Perhaps it’s the production, which is a little too polished for its blackened, ominous tone. Maybe the problem is that I often feel like instrumental rock has only one trick up its sleeve – loud/soft dynamics. More likely it’s tracks two and three (Burrow and Tyrant respectively) that bug me. Both owe a debt to Mogwai the size of Ireland and Greece’s financial crises combined, and could easily slip into any Mogwai album since Happy Songs for Happy People.
In an effort to understand my conundrum I listened to Pelican’s Australis today. The whole post-metal thing is a genre I haven’t been able to fully appreciate yet (does anyone else think that Neurosis are a bloated mess?) and I was thinking that Fowl might bear some of the genre’s trademarks. But Heirs don’t have any of the bombastic riffery found in the post-metal world. When the distortion pedals are stamped on, their guitars billow into a cloudy murk much more akin to Grey Daturas. This is especially the case on the record’s closer Drain, starting with a ringing guitar drone that builds and builds into a frantic Animal-from-the-Muppets style drum explosion beaten out in a time signature twice as fast as the blackened and buzzing guitars. Drain forgoes catharsis by fading into silence instead of reaching any foregone conclusions and for that it’s a fucking riot of a ride.
Heirs play a similar game on Dust, where five minutes of slinky bass and restrained drumming unfolds into a dizzying array of guitar melodies and then deconstructs itself back into silence. Men offers up bubbling electronics and tribal rhythms that eventually merge into the shifting sands of Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth. It’s these more precarious tracks that keep me coming back.
I like the doomy, charred ambience of Fowl, which reminds me of Grails minus the dusty psychedelia. And something has to be said about the cover art, which is completely at odds with the heavy sludge made by the band. Cruising the interwebs I found plenty of people ripping into Heirs for the artwork on the album, but the art school kid in me actually applauds them for not succumbing to the stoner, skull n bones image that so many of these bands parade.
Coming back to my opening point, I guess it’s Heirs’ unwillingness to identify themselves with any particular scene and its signifiers that makes Fowl an intriguing listen. I mean, one of their guitarists looks like he’s stepped out from a Tom of Finland drawing for chrissake. I don’t have a problem with their mysteriousness, lets just hope they don’t cross the border into contrived.