Music for Very Long, Pointy Goatees
Steve Von Till was introduced to the music world in 1989 as the singer and guitar player for a metal band called Neurosis. In 2000, he released As The Crow Flies, a stripped-down, acoustic record that is, for all intents and purposes, a metal record, albeit one with hushed vocals and 99% of the exhilaration (and backing tracks) removed. Amazingly, this is a reissue. There was a time when reissues were for important records or for badly-mastered older records. Perhaps times have changed.
Every song is essentially the same — simple, repeated guitar phrases and barely audible vocals that occupy one or two safe places on Till’s vocal range. There are some mildly amusing flourishes such as delayed guitars, sparse piano ramblings, distant cello strokes, echo-y war drums and floating female vocal on some songs, but the whole is always the same: somnambulistic, acousto-metal songs.
The record opens with “Stained Glass,” a brooding affair that, on the surface, is the about the physical appearance of a woman and, perhaps, the despair of losing said woman. There is not one memorable moment in the song; it has all the passion of a thesis defense. The next track, “We All Fall,” introduces strumming, a welcome relief from the monotonous arpeggiation of the previous song. The lyrics mention kings, death, horses and mountains. In fact, the lyrics on the whole record, from what can discerned, seem inspired by medieval folklore. There are very serious words about masculine topics like death, rebirth, and calamities. The record continues in this fashion, introducing the flourishes alluded to above in various songs, seemingly never getting above 80 BPM. As the Crow Flies ends with “Shadows In Stone,” which mercifully includes drums. This song would make a great backing track for a Viking death scene in a film, cut to slow-motion shots of boats burning.
As the Crow Flies is for confused adolescents who are just beginning to realize there is more to music than screaming vocals and machine-gun drums. It’s good that this may lead people down the road to more sophisticated music, yet music like this tends to be regarded very seriously by metal-heads, as if singing quietly and barely strumming a guitar means the music is somewhat more intellectually challenging than louder offerings. Slapping on the cello is also rite of passage in making “serious music,” but ultimately, there needs to be way more to it than there is here.