Pyramids‘ career has been a curious one so far, in that their debut in 2008 enabled them to work on multiple collaborations and with many different artists (Nadja, Mamiffer, Jesu, Blut Aus Nord and Horseback to name only a small selection) before they even thought about creating a true follow up to their first stand-alone record. A Northern Meadow is an album that embraces the soundscapes found on Pyramids; the lushness, the dreaminess, the oddness – and filters it through time and lessons learned. The Pyramids of today aren’t far removed from the Pyramids of yesterday, but the band feel so much more whole on this work, and it shows in the cohesion that flows through from beginning to end, despite the strange juxtaposition of the industrial-flavoured drum programming and the gorgeous intonations of R. Loren’s and M. Kraig’s voices.
The core of Pyramids stands much as it did on previous releases, yet more collaborators have found their way into the fold of this Texan band. Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts) lends his guitar drives to proceedings and works alongside M. Dean to create vast tracts of sub-black metal, which occasionally falls into dreamier, shoegaze-led territory when the time is right. As well as Marston, Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval curates the inhuman drum sounds that permeate A Northern Meadow with otherworldly dissonance, his work adding to the strangeness that Pyramids employ so well throughout, while William Fowler Collins adds layers and depth with ambient edits that course through the veins of the record. While many would think this “stunt casting,” Pyramids have long been known to work with other artists, and in the case of Marston and Vindsval, there has long been a connection. As such, the elements provided by these outside musicians only serve the band in the best possible way, with A Northern Meadow feeling complete and loved.
“In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow” begins this journey on driving beats that pulse forward and allow the lush, contradictory voice of R. Loren and M. Kraig to pull an ethereal slant on the track – he works against the fuzzy electronic hits of D. William and the mechanical turns of Vindsval in order to formulate abstract structures out of the sounds put in place by the band. Pyramids are all about experimenting and its testament to their talents that they can make such clashing styles work so well. “The Earth Melts Into Red Gashes Like The Mouths of Whales” is a gorgeous, shoegazing production that incorporates some of the more straight black metal sounds that the genre is mostly known for. Steady riffs push the track into darker moments while Vindsval’s touches are cloaked in the corners, waiting to bite yet being kept at bay by the soothing tones of Loren and Kraig that vie for space in the song.
There are moments of subtle bliss throughout the album as a whole, and in equal supply are passages of obvious weight – the unsettling electronically-filtered voice of “The Substance Of Grief Is Not Imaginary” jars, and the climbing nature of “Indigo Birds” and its subsequent cascades of sound aid Pyramids in their drive to establish an oppressive atmosphere. A Northern Meadow moves from beauty, to stillness, to inferno, to terror – often within the same song – and in turn Pyramids actualize the emotion and fright that is found in everyday life. Melody is used to wonderful effect, and while it comes only in the vocals, it’s often the heart of the song, and the strong malevolence that is found deeply buried in the noise that cuts through underneath serves to oppose the beauty that can be found on this voyage of humanity.
A Northern Meadow may have taken a long time to come to life, but its urgency, its abstraction and its vision are entirely worth the wait. The hope is that Pyramids don’t take so many years to allow us another peek at their inner workings.
A Northern Meadow is available to order from Profound Lore Records.