When you envision American atmospheric black metal, bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room roaming the Olympian wilderness or Agalloch traversing the snowy plateaus of Oregon’s Mount Hood spring to mind. What you don’t expect is the ever-twinkling skyline and busy streets of the Big Apple. However, this is where four piece Yellow Eyes reside and have done for near decade that they’ve been creating music. Over a span of four albums, the New Yorkers’ work ethic has more or less followed the rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so it will come as no surprise that their fifth full length ‘Rare Field Ceiling’ doesn’t deviate at all from the sound they have spent nine years perfecting.
Yellow Eyes possess the rare ability of being able to create black metal without the premise of an ego or pretension – what ensues is murky, densely layered and wrought with blast beats, but with the refreshing air of being completely down to earth – listeners can revel in the reassurance that if they’re completely unaware of what phase the moon currently sits in or they haven’t fully converted to a heathen lifestyle they won’t be forced to pause and promise never to listen to the album again, or worse still, be made fun of on the internet! The chanting choir and variation of wooden instruments that tie each song together allow for the album to flow naturally without any awkward pauses, so it feels as though Yellow Eyes never lose momentum throughout.
Will Skarstad’s vocals sit somewhere in the middle of the mix – having the instruments placed above not only adds to the overall grimy feel of desolation, it lends an air of intensity, like Skarstad is fighting to be heard above the epic maelstrom his bandmates have created. If you’re of the opinion that bands such as Altar of Plagues and Weakling left a huge void in their wake when they chose to split up then Yellow Eyes will go some way in helping to bridge that. If you’re already a long time fan then you can expect more of the same mystical feeling aggression you’ve come to know and love.
(7/10 Angela Davey)