Owl – Orion Fenix (2018) REVIEW

With no great knowledge of Valborg until 2017 I was pulled into the eclectic world of Christian Kolf‘s Owl back in 2014 with a promising recommendation that the project was futurist death/doom. In fact their self-titled debut from 2011 provided exactly that, some off-kilter death metal with a sort of modern atmospheric sludge metal production and affect. From that point it’d be impossible to predict what Kolf might be looking to record, it seems his leftover steam beyond Valborg and Woeburn House was equally dark but still relative to his other projects in some respects. The Godflesh circa ‘Selfless’/’Hymns’ sludge infused with death and industrial metal modus operandi of Owl‘s second full-length ‘You Are the Moon, I Am the Night’ was perhaps even better than his self-titled in terms of unique style and it’s full listen. To understand why his latest EP ‘Orion Fenix’ is exciting to me today,  you’d almost have to connect with that second full-length.

At some point Owl‘s guitar tone took on a djent-like bonk tone, perhaps due to down-tuning and industrial metal precision’s combination. ‘Into the Absolute’ just never fully achieved it’s vision for whatever reason, the vocals were quite distant and not quite clean while also no longer death metal tinged. I’d initially been recommended ‘Into the Absolute’ as a death metal EP, mind you, so my perception of it was entangled in that disappointment as I found my expectations assuaged in their full-lengths. That same year ‘The Last Walk’, another EP, released with what is essentially the same tonality and intent as ‘Orion Fenix’. A gloriously huge atmospheric sludge metal sound with an extensive ambient intro and a middle section of industrial rock influenced vocalization. Kolf hasn’t recreated ‘The Last Walk’ here but rather used a similar composition to capture a wild moment of inspiration, as it was fully realized across just three days.

Further wrestling with unpredictable bursts of style the 2015 ‘Aeon Cult’ EP from Owl was basically djent sludge metal on a dissonant bender that repulsed me. It’s shorter, growling songs sounded like Meshuggah covers of Valborg songs circa ten years ago and while it was still more memorable than any recent Jesu album that bonking guitar tone is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Despite following Owl closely on bandcamp for several years I’d no idea of the connection with Valborg and only stumbled upon ‘Endstrand’ towards the end of 2017. Because I enjoyed that album so much Valborg‘s own progression keyed up my interest in further Owl material.

Engaging as a distantly tall monolith of propulsive noise ‘Orion Fenix’ rises before me in slow approach. Foggy and ear-ringing welcome gives way to ethereal vocals and apprehensive sedition before the post-metal drumming kicks in. The tonality of Kolf‘s vocals is newly freshened and culls it’s power from the smoothest grooves of industrial rock as the song kicks into full gear around the 8 minute mark. Owl had certainly been this atmospheric before but the style of ‘Orion Fenix’ builds smartly upon influences that’ve long festered within Kolf‘s projects that seem to have naturally poured form him in this more spontaneous format. The modern atmospheric sludge metal instrumentation and giant production sound offer a heavier, prettier vision of what he’d done on ‘The Last Walk’ but this time his voice is engagingly ethereal and the track doesn’t rely on ambiance for padding.

‘Orion Fenix’ was beautifully realized and apparently in preparation for a full-length in the near future so consider me excited to hear what he’ll do with insight beyond this EP. As much as I’d like a third death/doom iteration if he captures that Dead Can Dance/Godflesh meets modern sludge in a vacuum sound again, with meaningful variation beyond, it’ll be some of his best work yet. Easily his best extended composition at 22 minutes and an impressive primer for what is next from Owl.

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Artist Owl
Type EP
Released March 23, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Zeitgeister Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Owl on Facebook
Genres

Dreaming in despair. 4.0/5.0

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