Despite the fact that, from what I can tell, both of these acts have received nothing but praise from the heavy music scene, I’ve never actually heard either of their music before. It’s partly why I was so keen to review this record; I wanted to see what all the fuss was about from these two highly lauded genre bending artists. I was also particularly interested in the nature of this record, which is neither a traditional split release with two unrelated songs by different artists, nor a full on collaboration with both artists contributing to every track.
Ancestral Memory could be seen as experimental metal’s answer to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – there are two thematically distinct sides to this album, one created by each artist. But much like how Andre 3000 produced a few tracks for Big Boi on Speakerboxxx, The Sun Came Up Upon The Left co-produced, mixed and mastered Everson Poe‘s half of this album, and it means there is a distinct collaborative thread which conjoins them together.
The Sun Came Up Upon The Left is a one man post-black metal project consisting only of someone known as db, and after releasing an acclaimed debut album in 2010, released nothing again until 2019. Everson Poe is the recording project of Mae Schultz who, along with a few different vocalists, has spent several years crafting a vast discography that transgresses many different styles of experimental heaviness. There’s an air of the enigmatic about both these artists, but in terms of productivity the two projects couldn’t be further apart.
Ancestral Memory begins with The Sun Came Up Upon The Left‘s half, consisting of four tracks and beginning with A Dream Upon Waking. Instantly we’re given a host of terrified audio samples taken from Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, behind which is a rather grand display of acoustic guitar, double bass and droning trumpets. It’s a restrained opening track that doesn’t so much introduce the album, as throw us an instant curveball because none of the following tracks sound anything like this. The Loss Of Self consists of a slow, repetitive, almost mechanical black metal riff that’s full of atonal chords and dark tritone melodies. The vocals range from cavernous shrieks to in-your-face Nergal-esque growls, and through both the quiet and intense moments, the electronic drums deliver a quite unsettling atmosphere.
A Coward’s Expression Of Doubt has a similar repetitive nature, with another set of industrial beats crashing into black metal chords and layers of roaring vocals. There is a rather catchy harmonised guitar melody which sneaks its way in before things take a brief chaotic turn. There’s some really intriguing dissonant details that drift in and out of the second half, preventing the repetition from becoming too drawn out and stale. Clouded Mirror utilises a grim bass riff that contrasts nicely against the clean vocal melodies; a unique addition to this track and produce a very hypnotic ambience. The second half introduces another audio sample, although this time it’s quite unintelligible and appears more as an atmospheric device that melts against the circular riff.
there are some excellent moments from both artists that display an enormous amount of skill and craftsmanship…
Everson Poe‘s half is made up of three tracks and begins with Malleus Maleficarum. It opens with a documentary sample describing the Hammer Of The Witches, and throughout the track there are a number of different samples that portray the theme. Across all three tracks the audio samples are very much the focal point, all of them voicing different elements and perspectives of witchcraft. Musically the track folds dark and gloomy melodies through waves of doomy fuzz, and intersperses the samples with vocals that range from choral chants to vicious growls. It’s an engrossing track that holds an increasingly tight grip through all of its nine and a half minutes.
Becoming Part II revolves around many different styles with a deliberately divisive flow. It starts and ends with a catchy sludge riff played with a percussive and reverb-heavy guitar sound. In between this we’re given furious black metal sections with primal screams, blast beats and tremolo guitars flailing away wildly; clean guitar sections with some John Frusciante style chords and single-coil tones; and melancholic doomy riffs with a touch of blackgaze about them. All the while the audio samples are relentlessly proceeding, and while it should make for an absorbing listen, it ends up feeling a little difficult to comprehend.
There are so many brilliant things going on musically that it’s hard to pay attention to the samples at the same time, and unfortunately they end up becoming a distraction rather than a centrepiece. However, the third track Corruption, Thou Art My Father gets the balance spot on. It’s a much more minimalist atmospheric piece made up of thumping drums, droning bass and elongated guitar lines that allow the audio sample to take prominence without distraction.
I definitely enjoyed this album, and there are some excellent moments from both artists that display an enormous amount of skill and craftsmanship. Both acts also provide an impressively clear vision of how their respective sides of the record will sound and feel, and that is something that will connect with many people.
So, having now had my first listening experience of both artists, do I get what all the fuss about Everson Poe and The Sun Came Up Upon The Left is? Honestly, I’m not too sure yet. I’m intrigued enough by Ancestral Memory that I really want to delve further into both artists’ discographies, and I’m fully convinced I’m going to discover some amazing music within them.
Scribed by: Will J