I listened to a lot of albums this weekend, mostly classic rock (Grateful Dead’s Live Dead) and modern rock trying to sound classic (Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell’s Very Uncertain Times) but it was the cold and somewhat impenetrable Yellow Eyes that got me to stop and think “I should write about this.” Because Rare Field Ceiling, like all of the band’s other records, has the peculiar trick of frustrating me even as it draws in me into its maelstrom.
“Maelstrom ” feels like the right word. From the opening moments of “Warmth Trance Reversal” it feels like a solid sheet of sound. Past that you realize that beneath the fury of the drums and the harrowing shriek of the vocals lie distinct riffs and melodies that blend into one another really well, and often alternate with brief dirge sequences where the strings ring out mournfully; a broke respite before once again descending into madness. Those exposed moments in an otherwise tightly compressed blast of metal hold a lot of Yellow Eyes’s signature, along with the eerie field recordings and chants the band picked up in Russia. These small moments between songs tie the songs together, not that you’d mistake something like “No Dust” or “Nutrient Painting” coming from anyone else.
Further notes as the second half of Rare Field Ceiling plays: the music feels fasters that it actually is, and that’s something that I want to understand more as I work on my own music. I think it comes from the drumming – blasts beats and cymbal crashes do a lot to fill in the empty spaces of the guitar riffs, and it’s a wonder to hear how the guitars and bass create the space in the songs. Every time I try to write something in this vein, it always comes out like me: hopelessly stuck in a tightly structured 80s cadence, intro/verse/chorus etc. Something else that always catches me is the solo guitar intro to “Light Delusions Curtain” and how despite the gain you can hear each note ring out so clearly, and how that musical idea continues once the drums come in. I had a chance to See Yellow Eyes live back in 2016 when they were supporting Sick With Bloom and that dynamic was perfectly captured in a live environment, too.
It’s hard to tell if Rare Field Ceiling is the best album Yellow Eyes have release so far, because it’s hard to remove myself once I’m inside the music, trying to pry its secrets out. Maybe we’ll go in reverse order and I’ll follow this up with their previous two releases. I’ve been in black metal analysis mode lately trying to figure out different ways to express myself for the new record, and it certainly can’t hurt to get more Yellow Eyes in my ears.
NOTE: I probably would have owned it anyway (on digital, at least), but the vinyl came about because of my membership in the Gilead Vinyl Subscription Club. I have mixed feelings about extreme metal on vinyl: a lot of what I look for in vinyl tends to skew to more open, spacious music, and my preference is used versus new (eventually I want to write about that). But Gilead puts out some great music, and their vinyl is always top-notch and beautiful to look at. Case in point with Rare Field Ceiling:
I’m not going to sit here and espouse the tired claims of “VINYL OVER ALL” or that analog always sounds better than digital: nothing is that black or white. But I will say the vinyl experience with Rare Field Ceiling is very, very good.