Yellow Eyes – Hammer of Night
Written by Pete Banjo on February 23, 2014
Black Metal has enough sub genres, crossover points, and iterations tying this influence to that influence to whatever and whomever and on and on and on. Here's all that needs to be said – Yellow Eyes is a USBM band from Brooklyn that focuses their musical energy into epic and emotional songcraft that involves major chords, drawing comparisons from Alcest to Krallice to Deafheaven (those are links to songs I reccomend if you're interested) At this point in the review – you're already bringing a fair amount of baggage to these comparisons based on how you feel about the aforementioned bands, what you think terms like 'black metal' and 'true' and 'kvlt' and anything like that means. As Mr. Crowley said: 'do what thou wilt,' so armed with this introduction. If you have no idea who Alcest or Krallice are – they are often pointed-to as the modern meldings of black metal and post-rock/shoegaze – a kind of 'Explosions In The Sky meets Darkthrone' sort of sound.
On to the music. Yellow Eyes craft songs. Each part of the band moves as an orchestrated whole to create a sense of evolving emotion. There are no hyper-fast swirling guitar counterparts, no flashy solos, no keyboards, and I would argue that each so-called 'riff' that they play on its own is somewhere between moderately interesting to pretty basic. It is in the evolution of musical ideas, of changing chord structures, and of context between each riff and what came before it that creates something truly exceptional here. Yellow Eyes defies musical expectations in the black metal idiom in subtle ways. Unlike some bands whose musical non-sequiturs are jarring, strange, or just downright funny or bad – Yellow Eyes' songs are a study in chord and riff changes that do something just slightly askew from what you would expect from a similar sounding band. A half-step transposition here, a change from major to diminished, or just a shifting of drum tempo that's not super-abrasive … and before you know it you are drawn into the album itself. That alone is worth the price of admission. In the age of well-crafted genre worship amongst all of black metal's stalwart reinvent-holics, bands end up sounding like polished reflections of great talent from way back when. But just that – reflections. Yellow Eyes brings a sense of evolution. They are working towards moving their vision of black metal forward. It's not revolutionary – but it is creative, unique, emotive, expressive, and perhaps most of all cohesive.
That is not to say that these cats don't know how to play their instruments well. I get the sense they very much do. In fact, each guitar part and each drum part is nearly flawless in its devotion to creating that elusive sense of wholeness. This is the work of people dedicated to creating music of a high caliber. Agressive and fast yet often falling back to mid-paced and even slower sections of atmospheric hypnotic repetition that never bores and somehow gives the impression of never fully repeating: again, the sense of evolution.
This may sound a bit daft, but listening to this album time and again reminds me of the feeling I got in the early 2000's hearing Deathspell Omega's earlier splits with Clandestine Blaze and Mutiilation … while nothing groundbreakingly different was happening compared to what other bands at the time were doing (bands that I liked, I should point out) – there was something undefinable that drew me back again and again. Like all great art – the sum of the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. There was a spark of something beyond riffs and chords and transitions and drumming and tremolo and all that: a sense of cohesive composition. I get that same feeling listening to this.
By the way, their stuff is available from their bandcamp page for FREE or CHEAP depending on the album you want to download. And in the interests of full disclosure, most of this review was written for Metal-Archives.com. Yes, I am a nerd who writes reviews for a metal site.