Bowing Heads / Sunless Xyggos
(Iron Tyrant Records)

Though BONE AWL have always produced highly polarized opinions, it must be acknowledged that they almost singlehandedly carried a torch during an acutely disappointing period of underground U.S. Black Metal history. Not only with their music, but also with the Klaxon label and the Fall To Your Knees Pissing zine, the members of BONE AWL have managed to simultaneously contribute to Black Metal’s evolution while maintaining a ceaseless devotion to the purity of its essence. Following their successful U.S. tour, the paths of band members He Who Crushes Teeth and He Who Gnashes Teeth have deviated due in large measure to geographic constraints. In the interim, He Who Crushes Teeth began working on the intriguing and unique Raspberry Bulbs project and Seed Stock records while He Who Gnashes Teeth has kept a lower profile though he has released several informal demos under the name AMOFAS. Recorded in advance of the second NWN fest in 2010, “Bowing Heads” is the last completed BONE AWL recording that the two made together. As such, it reflects the personal growth and individual character of its creators in a way that previous recordings have not. While BONE AWL’s earliest releases evinced a certain angst and insecurity, beginning with the Not For Our Feet tape released in 2005, the band developed a highly concentrated and confident style that they have nurtured and which can now rightfully be characterized as belonging to BONE AWL alone. Although each of their recordings exhibits a similar formula, most of them demonstrate subtle sonic permutations which differentiate them like a photograph of the same scene captured through a different lens. “Bowing Heads”, on the other hand, arguably represents an almost entirely new vision. That is not to say that the character traits intrinsic to the BONE AWL sound are absent. Rather, the sound on this release is clearly a composite of the two individuals who constitute the band and the result is broader and more captivating than much of BONE AWL’s previous work. Even in the brief introductory march that opens this LP, BONE AWL’s reliance upon melody is more prevalent than before as is the tendency toward mid-paced chord progressions. This melodic and mid-paced emphasis continues throughout the “Bowing Heads” release with the only exception being the title track. Interestingly, unlike much of the band’s output (including the “Sunless Xyggos” material on side B of this LP), “Bowing Heads” utilizes uncharacteristically clear production so that the instrumentation is not suffocated by layers of overdriven tape noise and the catchiness of the riffs can be appreciated. “Sunless Xyggos” was the last Klaxon related BONE AWL release and features an alternate, instrumental recording of the BONE AWL tracks featured on the split tape the band did with Canada’s Wall Noise luminary, The Rita. Amid the onslaught of noise on that tape, the song structure of the BONE AWL tracks often submits to the harsh noise texture of the release as a whole. This rendition allows the listener to recognize the sonic versatility inherent in the material. That these are well-formulated songs is proven by the fact that three of the five are regular staples of the band’s live performances and often command the greatest attention from fans. The most radical departure from the previously released versions is possibly ‘I Feel Tension’. Rather than the calm, steady build up that usually characterizes the track, the version here is a maelstrom of hostile activity. Ultimately, the lack of vocals detracts little from the effect of the tracks and even adds to the overall allure of the recording. Of course, BONE AWL is known at times to bury their vocals so low in the mix that they scarcely seem to be present anyway, so these purely instrumental tracks differ on slightly from some of their other recordings. The real charm of this LP is the collision of these two different arms of the greater BONE AWL apparatus. The “Bowing Heads” tape, while some fans may decry its departure from the more “traditional BONE AWL sound”, represents a maturation of the band’s style. There is more finesse to the tracks, more sideways glances, and more cunning within the crafting of the songs than the angsty immediacy of the earlier material such as “Sunless Xyggos”. Both styles have power, of course, though the “Bowing Heads” tape may not be as gratifying to those who depend heavily on the violence of sound. The reward of “Bowing Heads” is revealed after repeated listens and stands out more starkly when contrasted with the material on the B-side of this LP. As always, Iron Tyrant Records has produced an exquisite vinyl version and the artwork is true to the usual austerity of BONE AWL’s other releases. Although the tapes are now sold out, this vinyl version will likely silence the whining from those who missed them upon their initial release…at least for a while anyway.

Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell

Related reviews:

BONE AWL - Not For Our Feet - by Charles Keller
BONE AWL - Night Is Indifferent - by Charles Keller

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