Building arcs in your work is not easy. Yellow Eyes are returning two years after their excellent third full-length, Sick With Bloom, an album radiating with a fiery take on black metal, dense layering, animalistic attitude and atmospheric tendencies. For each minute of that album Yellow Eyes felt completely comfortable in their skin, knowing their identity as a band, and having a clear vision for their sound and what they wanted to achieve.
The follow-up release, Immersion Trench Reverie, is connected by a bridge to Sick With Bloom. This connective tissue is the production, with the band deciding to use the same location, a cabin in Connecticut, to record their new work. As a result, a common aesthetic between the two albums come into view, with slight deviations that work in the band’s favor. The most noticeable change is the drums, which appear to be more on the foreground, something that might move the perspective further away from the black metal tradition, but given their tonality, they actually make the overall result appear more old-school.
Another big part in Yellow Eyes’ music was the divergence into atmospheric and ambient territories through field recordings and samples. The band infused their work with an earthy aura through such techniques, and for the new album they take this approach even further, as brothers Will and Sam Skarstad, while visiting Siberia, captured a plethora of sonic moments to augment the desolate aesthetic of Yellow Eyes. The collection of sounds appearing in Immersion Trenche Reverie definitely augment the experience, providing richer textures with a set of diverse sounds. From solitary field recordings, such as bird sounds, howls, bells in the distance and wind samples, the album gains a more graphic representation, placing the incoming music within a certain context. However, the most powerful of these recordings come with the female vocals, which appear to have been captured at a church during service, adding a ceremonial quality in tracks like “Blue as Blue” and “Shrillness in the Heated Glass.”
The ambient approach and use of samples operate as an enhancement towards the black metal core of the band. The two sides do not meet, but succeed its other on the spotlight. In their black metal, Yellow Eyes encompass a holistic approach of the traditional scene, without transversing far from the core. This provides solid ground for the band, as they shift through the aggression, bitterness and explosiveness of the genre, to moments of heavy melancholy, mysterious elements and dissonance. The importance however, is not found in their overarching black metal methodology, but in the emotion and purpose these parts come with. It is a terrifying result, with the band unleashing such dissonance at tracks like “Blue as Blue,” but approaching it with a certain sadness as well, making you not focus on the inharmonic nature of the parts but the underlying feeling. The same result is achieved when the more brutal and aggressive moments of the album take on an epic perspective, resulting in a grand manifestation.
What is notable with black metal releases recently, something that, on one hand, is a break from the norm when considering the past days of the genre, but on the other re-establishes the ethos of black metal, is the heavy layering apparent in more works. This is has been the case for different varieties of black metal bands, from the nonconformists, such as Deafheaven, to the extreme progressivists, in the likes of Castevet, and many in between. Yellow Eyes take this method very seriously, managing to further condense the energy and ferocity of their work without expanding its duration. The guitar layers of Immersion Trench Reverie are suffocating, allowing no light to pierce through their thick veil. The tracks take on an overwhelming quality, resulting in kaleidoscopic visions of lead guitar parts, as in “Velvet of Horns,” or insanely intense delivery, as with the final track, “Jubilat.”
With their new album, Yellow Eyes are doubling down on their vision. Examining their identity instead of moving beyond its boundaries, they dig deeper towards its core. It is not certain if they have reached their very essence as an entity, but so far Immersion Trench Reverie is their most complete, and representative, work.