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Bird from the Abyss – Self-titled

Bird from the Abyss – Self-titled

Written by:  Sage
Artist:  Bird from the Abyss
Title:  Self-titled
Label:  Haute Magie
Cat. #:  RELIC002
Format:  2xCassette

Genre:  Ritual Folk / Free Folk / Dark Ambient / Experimental

Cassette I
A1) Intro / Beginning at the Center of Chaos / Azathoth and Flute
A2) Song to the Great Black Fox
A3) Ways of Slaughter
A4) Abdul Alhazred’s Anxiety
A5) Crawling Monuments
A6) Travelling with the Bird Pt. I
B1) Kyyn Laulu
B2) From the Altars of Fire to the Kingdom of Ereskigal
B3) Travelling with the Bird – Part II – Back to the Abyss

Cassette II
A1) Neck Deep in Swampy Mud
A2) Powers Hidden
B1) Interlude from Abandoned Well
B2) Electric Forest
B3) Horrors of…
B4) Seven Gateways of Clark-ashton Smith

It is somewhat sad to realize that the last time we heard from J. M. Aaltonen and his unique project Bird from the Abyss, he had just self-released his debut “I”.  Though we hadn’t heard from him since then, the release schedule for Aaltonen has been relatively slow, releasing “II” as a CD-R on the short-lived Starlight Temple Society, and eventually another EP “III” saw the light of day, once again as a self-released extremely limited edition Mini CD-R and as a download.  This isolation from labels wouldn’t last long, however, as the distinct label Haute Magie soon picked up a ‘new’ release from the artist, this double cassette that is simply self-titled with the phrase “The Bird Takes you on a Voyage” written at the top of the album artwork.  The release itself is the only aspect about it that is ‘new’, however, as the double cassette is actually a collection of the three previous works from Bird of the Abyss in one offering.  That is, except for the majority of Cassette II, Side B, which features four tracks — three of which were either unreleased or available only in the digital format before this.

Describing the sound that Bird from the Abyss creates is as difficult as the music is unique.  The production is gritty/dirty and instrumentation relatively simplistic, but the presence and composition of the tracks is not.  While many tracks can be considered experimental in nature, the more traditional acoustic-oriented ones have a unique majestic flavor that at times somehow remind one of raw, instrumental versions of Moon Occults the Sun-style Espers, minus the stringed arrangements.  Present in most tracks is the sometimes ritual, sometimes ominous percussion, flute and fuzz-bass / guitar that help to create that “deep in the wilderness” feeling.  Thus, the music becomes ritual in the tribal sense, taking on a very natural and open-world sound.  Unfortunately, where the atmosphere of the tracks excels, some tracks can come off as sloppy, while others are as tight as can be.  Overall, strictly because of that reasoning and nothing having to do with composition or otherwise, the tracks can come off as inconsistent psych jams.  Its the B-side of Cassette I that features some of the best music on the release, with extremely dark bass-oriented texture that precedes raw free folk weirdness and minimal experimentation.  It’s all well-performed, compositionally sound, and sincere in atmosphere.  The production for tape II is cleaner, but it also features a change in direction.  The music is less murky and primal, and takes on a deeper psyche edge, especially in relation to the keyboard sounds.  “Powers Hidden” also features the first actual movie/literary sample that inevitably heralds the most elaborate guitar melodic/rhythmic structure on the whole release.  While still retaining its noisey characteristic, Aaltonen breaks out a bombastic guitar rhythm with a modest solo over top, before returning to a bleak, doom-ridden atmosphere.

The symmetrical, detailed artwork of this self-titled effort would lead you to believe that the meaning behind these two tapes could be defined as having allusive substance within the esoteric realm, and even if you haven’t already solidified that conclusion through the fact that the album has been released through “Haute Magie”, your assumptions would be correct, but not in the modern sense.  That is to say, with the exception of some moments on tape II, the entire collection has not an occult aether surrounding it, but rather a very Earthly one.  Of course this would make sense considering the animal guide of choice for the project, but there’s definitely something that goes beyond the usual references and vague archaic attitude — something tribal in nature and spiritually primal.  Bird from the Abyss itself describes its music as being “ritual music according to ancient traditions”, and certainly from the bizarre image of Aaltonen himself on the website, to the elemental references of fire, air, water, and Earth as well as the runic spelling of the name, Bird from the Abyss makes good on this promise, especially in the bleak sense of Northern tradition.

Of course, there is a very Lovecraftian feel to this entire release, from the noted sample on black magick to the mention of Lovecraft’s Azathoth as well as the “Mad Arab” himself, Abdul Alhazred, whom as most fans of the literature would know is the fictional author of the Necronomicon.  Of course, various other names including the Sumerian Queen of the underworld “Ereskigal”.  In cassette II, no fictional names were mentioned which may show a progression in theme to coincide with the maturing of production, though Clark Ashton Smith was written about in the closing track.  However, of course, even this could not escape the Lovecraft influence as Smith was not only in the Lovecraft circle, but a close friend of the man himself for over a decade until Lovecraft’s death in 1937 and was another monolithic figure in the Weird Tales magazine that influenced so many. The double cassette comes package as two red tapes with black imprint, loosely slide inside a stock cardboard slipcase with a track-list insert and a quarter-fold black-on-red booklet wrapped in black packaging paper.  As it seems unlikely that anyone would keep the paper itself, there are some minor problems with the packaging.  Without a bottom end to the cardboard slipcase, the tapes slide right out, so care is needed when handling the release.  In addition, there is nowhere for the red booklet to fit so it has to be kept externally, an inconvenience which is obvious.  The packaging itself is beautiful, it just isn’t realistic in regards to where and how to keep it in one’s collection after purchase.  Of course, it is the music that matters most.

Rating:  3/5