Orogeny is an album created under various guises, with three separate entities claiming a part of its creation. Interestingly, all three bands involve the same two people, Ash and someone who is simply known as A. The difference between each of these projects is simply who handles what, be it drums, guitars, or vocals. The sound between all three is quite distinct though, in particular with the final two songs by Stellar Descent. Together, the three different bands fit together well, although Boreal and Twilight Falls are much more alike in general. The first few songs are all in the twelve to fifteen minute range, and the last one is a whopping twenty-five minutes.
I have argued elsewhere that Cascadian Black Metal means something very specific, it is directly in relation to the area it is from. This is the whole point of the genre, to reflect the natural area, the environment that is the inspiration for the music. People can play a style similar to CBM, but if they are to truly be inspired by this idea they will adapt that style to whatever local region they are from. At least as a basic concept, these song names seem to reflect that idea. The Stellar Descent songs (parts 1 and 2) are called Nevadan, which makes me for the first time interested in exploring this area, if the music reflects the beauty. Boreal is a bit more obvious, titled Cascadian, and even Orogeny could be a play on words, containing the same letters for Oregon. The word itself has to do with the process that leads to mountains forming from shifts in the earth’s crust, as ecological of a term as could be used for an album.
This relies on consistent repetition, which does require some patience. The first track Cascadian by Boreal has very few tempo changes, driving the point home. Near the end things pick up, but at this point it is almost all percussion, with the thin guitars being almost completely drowned out. Boreal has less of the high pitched vocals than the other tracks, containing more of a scream that is barely audible. Twilight Falls – Orogeny 1 begins with some of the most frightening noises I have ever heard on a recording, and I use to listen to Stallagh regularly (look it up). It is confusing in how it fits, for this is presented as more of an ecologically focused album, and this sounds like some crazy gunman at an event. All I can hear is people screaming, and perhaps the crackling sound of a fire, it is hard to tell, but it is certainly disturbing.
Orogeny I and II are a frantic conglomeration of frenzied of drums and screams with a distant dissonant tremolo. It is is absolutely relentless, never letting up for a moment. A desperation exists, a need to fully express a discontent, perhaps with the devastation of the natural world. Surely, one or two numbskulls will dismiss ideologies such as this as mere “hippie” nonsense, but this mentality is for those who are unconscious to what is happening around them. The production is very minimal, with insane vocals and screeches from a world unknown. I’m not quite sure what to make of this, for certainly, not so much a better, but a different approach to production would have allowed the guitars to not be drowned out and create that hypnotic effect that makes music like this so powerful. The drumming is very smooth, always transitory and embellishing, which is very noticeable for they are up front in the mix and for the most part, completely take over the music. Perhaps this has to do with the production, it is hard to say, but as an example going back to Boreal certain riffs are very powerful, yet are difficult to discern between the pounding of the drums. The vocals are far from decipherable, while the tremolo picking is consistent, almost reaching through the percussive elements in an attempt to force the listener to pay even closer attention. This is quite the task.
This may be associated with the whole Cascadian thing, but in reality the first two bands are simply pure Black Metal. In particular with the Orogeny tracks, it is an absolutely maniacal frenzy, with forceful vocals and drums and guitars that hardly ever let up. It is quite impressive how the drummer can play with this level of intensity for such a long time. Mid-way through Orogeny 1 the music slows down to a melodic moment with the guitar with the drums adding some ambiance, although it almost completely drowns out the guitar. This whole section is the only rest they give you, and it is just a second to catch your breath. This is a stripped down minimalist sound, and it shows, purely guitars, vocals, and drums with little else in terms of atmosphere or any of the typical things people associate with Black Metal in this region. I, in fact, have to say this has nothing to do with that movement, beyond the only influence that really matters, which is environmental.
These are more wails than screams, a primal sound that is inhuman and completely indecipherable. Boreal and Twilight Falls seem to take a similar approach, both play the same quick pace with wild screams, which sit far too low in the mix as well. The vocals at times borderline the shrill screech of groups such as Wigrid and Nyktalgia. I cannot help but think what this would be like had it been recorded and mixed differently. That raw quality is certainly necessary, so it is not that, but simply the over emphasis on the drums. If it was not for that, this would be on the same level as the aforementioned bands, who are two of my favorite in the world of DSBM. These bands define the underground, even the Bandcamp page is difficult to find. The number of releases for previous albums of all the bands is so small your chances of finding this anywhere is slim to none. This particular release was limited to only 50 copies.
Stellar Descent is my favorite of the three bands on this limited release, featuring some very hypnotic sounds and various tempos that create a completely different world all together. This also allows the vocals to release their cavernous echo, having more of an effect for it does not seem like simply a release of fury. The drums continue in much of the same vein as before, although perhaps slowing down a bit more, while the guitars are much more melodic and even borderline post-Rock and Shoegaze. Certainly, influences such as Leviathan and Xasthur are very evident, in particular with the vocals. As a whole this is quite different in many aspects, and for me much more enjoyable. The earlier songs are on full throttle with little let up, while this allows space to let the notes ring out and the drummer to find a way to create ambiance. The music becomes quite reflective, creating an environment where it allows the mind to wander, which feels quite a bit nostalgic.
Nevadan Part One and Two blend in perfectly together, and combined are forty minutes long, enough to be their own album. A recording of perhaps sitting besides a lake or some other body of water puts this in a different world. At parts it becomes an absolutely cathartic explosion, and when the pace begins to slow and the air clears, it is as if a giant weight is off of your chest. These moments, although short, are exhilarating in a different sense than the insane compositions that came before. This is the exhilaration of being able to breathe for the first time after a maddening panic, a mythical beast in the woods howling, purely animal, than, returning to a more calm, peaceful state with a mind of clarity.
With repeated listens, Boreal and Twilight Falls did grow on me, although getting past the disappointing mix between drums, guitars, and vocals was certainly depressing, and not in the way it was perhaps meant to be. Stellar Descent, on the other hand, is nearly flawless, besides one part where the drums are completely unnecessary. It is a near perfect blend of ambiance and howls that truly sound like the Earth itself is creating these cavernous noises. The melodic aspects switching into an increased tempo creates a deeper ferocity. All in all, I find the earlier tracks to be a decent addition to the world of Black Metal, but Stellar Descent’s stuff is what truly stands out, for it contains a mystical quality that could easily make this one of the most important bands to pay attention to in this genre’s evolution. From a songwriting perspective as a whole, Boreal and Twilight Falls sound like the demo versions, which are often worlds apart from what evolved into Stellar Descent. My own bias needs to be mentioned, for I always prefer atmosphere over speed, and although every song contains a mix of both, Stellar Descent does it right. As the individual behind the band states, the name is literal and means that we descended from the stars, and these two songs are a lovely reminder of such.
01) Boreal – Cascadian
02) Twilight Falls – Orogeny I
03) Twilight Falls – Orogeny II
04) Stellar Descent – Nevadan (Part 1)
05) Stellar Descent – Nevadan (Part 2)