Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eight Bells-Landless

Since the time that Subarachnoid Space disbanded at the turn of this decade, there had been a void in the Portland music scene. Fast forward to 2011, and the then-newly formed Eight Bells, which included ex-Subarachnoid Space members Melynda Jackson and Christopher Van Huffel and was rounded out by Haley Westeiner. Having worked their way back up through the ranks, they released their first album in 2013 called The Captain's Daughter to critical acclaim. A lineup change later, thanks to health related issues, saw the band welcome in Rae Amitay to the fold as drummer, with Van Huffel contributing where possible, in time for Landless. It's safe to say that Eight Bells is finding their own way and is taking the listeners along for the ride.

Whereas The Captain's Daughter was about establishing the band's sound, Landless is about leaving an imprint on the listener's brain. The title track is haunting in its delivery, with the vocals providing atmosphere almost in the absence of music. The repetition of the vocal lines only serves to emphasize this, all against a backdrop of music reminiscent of 70's progressive rock. Shades of Subarachnoid Space even gets invoked at the beginning of "Hold My Breath," an indication that Eight Bells knows how to incorporate what they know to make something sound not only innovative, but also pleasing to the ears. While Landless isn't as metal as The Captain's Daughter, it more than makes up for it by providing music that truly touches a nerve. With the amount of time afforded to each song (only "The Mortal's Suite" is under the four minute mark), Eight Bells takes advantage by creating songs that are sure to remain stuck in the minds of listeners long after the album ends. All of this is aided by the ever-present production values of Billy Anderson, who has been at the helm for some of the more renowned albums such as Primordial's The Gathering Wilderness, Ludicra's Another Great Love Song, and all of the Witch Mountain albums.

With the disbandment of notable Portland band Agalloch, the title of best current band to emerge from there is a tight one between both Eight Bells and Witch Mountain. Both are great, but while there is still an unknown factor with Witch Mountain in-studio, as their next album will be their first with current vocalist Kayla Dixon, Eight Bells is firmly establishing themselves both in-studio and in a live setting. Landless is quite possibly the best atmospheric album that you will come across this year, and it's not even close. A sure-fire top ten album for the year end list.

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