Artist: Black Sheep Wall
Album: Songs for the Enamel Queen
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Country: United States
Written by James Sweetlove
The band hail from Moorpark, California and formed back in 2006. Since such time they have one EP and four full-length albums, with Songs for the Enamel Queen being their 4th and following their 2015 album (of which I am a huge fan) Im Going to Kill Myself. The band is Brandon Gillichbauer (vocals), Andrew Hulle (guitar), Scott Turner (guitar), Juan Hernandez Cruz (bass) and Jackson Thompson (drums). The killer cover art on the album is courtesy of Jeff Rogers.
Pinning down a label for Black Sheep Wall’s sound is no easy feat, the band have a very distinctive style that incorporates influences from a number of areas. At the very least you can clearly see influences from the sludge, hardcore and post-metal realms, but there’s also black metal influences, some ambient elements and a whole lot of experimental elements that the band uniquely employ. I have to say that I was a huge fan of I’m Going to Kill Myself and as such I had extremely high expectations for this release and that I’m even happier to say that the band more than met them. Songs for the Enamel Queen is everything I had hoped it would be and then some.
The thing that has always drawn me to this band and which remains to be a key feature of this latest release is the band’s ability to create an engaging and immersive atmosphere around their music. When I say atmosphere, I mean that there is a rich layering of textures and sounds that all work together to craft captivating soundscapes in the form of songs. The band’s songs always evolve and grow as they unfold and while at points, we get that harsh aggression that we love at many points there is a real focus on the more atmospheric side of things. This is primarily thanks to the post-metal and ambient influences, but those sludge elements are also ever present, in the same sort of way that they are for bands such as Neurosis, ISIS or Cult of Luna. Some of the album’s raw energy can probably be traced to their hardcore influences, which really shine through in parts and pick up the pace of the whole album.
So, let’s take a look at the more specific elements on the album, starting with the vocals. In my eyes (and ears) Brandon Gillichbauer is a brilliant vocalist, he has the ability to use the same vocal style and yet create extremely varied atmospheres and energies with it. Whether he is going for a raw and pained feel that leans somewhat towards the black metal side of things or he’s going for a more powerful, sludgier feel or a higher energy hardcore influenced feeling it’s all fantastic. He’s also able to give it a sort of atmospheric quality that is extremely well suited to the more post-metal focuses side of things. We also get some pos-hardcore style clean vocals in the mix which mix things up even further and bring some additional diveristy to the release.
Next up we need to look at the string elements on the album, firstly guitar. The sheer amount of variety in the guitar work on this album is impressive enough on its own. Then you have the quality of what is being presented, and it gets even more impressive. The constant shifting between technicality, heaviness and atmosphere focuses segments keeps the album interesting from start to finish. Then there is the bass work, which is just as awesome as you would expect from a band of this caliber. Not only are the tones thick and audible, but there is a real technicality present. Drum wise we get an equally as diverse offering as we do with guitar, helping to drive the constant progression present on the album. We also have some fantastic elements such as horns thrown into the mix at times, which bring some nice variety to the release.
Overall, this is a fantastic piece of experimental music. The band as usual have delivered a quality offering for our listening pleasure. So, if you’re already a fan, then you should have already listened to this by now and if you aren’t this is a great place to start.
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