Eight Bells - Landless
Battleground Records
Psychedelic Post-black Metal
5 songs (39' 39")
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

I covered fellow Portlanders Eight Bells a few years ago, when they first released The Captain's Daughter, and since then they've been busy, with their sophomore full-length released last month. After a few listens, I can say with a certainty that they've completely eclipsed their first effort. Simply put, Landless is one of a kind, one of the best albums I've heard so far this year.

The band's sound hasn't gotten any less ethereal, but where The Captain's Daughter was edgy and quick-paced, Landless somehow has a much more solid presence to it. Melynda Jackson's delay-pedal-ridden guitars provide most of this, with layered solo harmonies crying out on top of stumpy, monolithic bass riffs provided by her opposite number on the bass, Haley Westeiner. The production is full and bright -- just the tightly-compressed distortion tone Jackson's got here on her guitar alone could bring a tear to an unwary eye --, and the instruments step aside for the duo's soft vocals, now much sweeter and comprising the majority of the vocals on the album (though there are a few black metal-style shrieks, less memorable, on the faster portions of the songs). The title track is the real jewel here, rewarding listeners with incredibly beautiful solo harmonies backed by Westeiner's compact bass work, but shorter pieces like The Mortal's Suite, with less technical flashiness to them, still fit perfectly with the album's atmosphere.

The changes to the sound appear to lie in their newfound polish. It's not like the band softened their style or retreated from metal, after all -- the blastbeats and wild tremolo picking are still firmly present --, but Landless does seem substantially less abrasive than its predecessor was. The songwriting's improved, too. I'd liked The Captain's Daughter, but felt like it was better due to having been kept short; here, though, there are no such concerns, as even the spaciest feedback-laden trips taken are rewarding and comfortable to the ear. The dirge-like Touch Me, for example, keeps a steady, hypnotic ringing throughout the verses like funeral bells, with the heavy portions cascading down right after the vocals are left, and the first track, Hating, proceeds slowly and painstakingly, doomy, but neither boring nor unduly oppressing the listener.

Four years after their debut, Eight Bells has turned out something much more special than their even-then-substantial talents were previously capable of. Landless handily exceeds listeners' expectations here.

Bandcamp: https://eightbells.bandcamp.com/album/landless.

Killing Songs :
All, though the best is Landless
Andy quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Eight Bells that we have reviewed:
Eight Bells - The Captain's Daughter reviewed by Andy and quoted 81 / 100
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