Of all the genres, metal has some of the most dynamic collaborations. Old meets new, subgenres collide and on a larger scale, primary genres intermingle like the cords of a braid—Ozzy Osbourne and Post Malone are an acquired taste of example of the boundaries musicians have no issues with crossing. But some of its most beautiful pairings don’t necessarily come from the eclectic ranges. In fact, true beauty is made when like minds (and similar creative approaches) come together. That’s something Pacific Northwest musicians Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch figured out ages ago (Mirror Reaper comes to mind, of course). While a shared understanding and appreciation of the PNW’s glum environment may have been of some influence, the two acts find themselves reaching another conceptually solid peak with Stygian Bough Volume I, and it’s in every way fresh, yet artistically true to their nature.
The first of hopefully very many compositions (They’d have a hefty amount of material to be inspired by, as the album title and its conceptual framework are based on the James George Frazer book The Golden Bough), this initial volume of Stygian Bough is rife with the characteristic elements people have come to enjoy from both acts. Their leading track, “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll),” shows this well—Erik Moggridge, the force behind Aerial Ruin, leads with vocals imperturbable yet emphatic. In their usual fashion, Bell Witch embellish droned tones with melodic funeral doom. Their knack for conjuring the darkest clouds of a sonic atmosphere shows in tracks like “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passenger) and “Prelude,” the album’s broodily distinct tracks. Anchoring them with opener “The Bastard Wind” and ender “The Unbodied Air” help in driving home the natural narrative, with the resolution being the last notes of an organ slowly fading into a dusky distance.
It’s easy to see how the past moments of their collaborative relationship have brought them to this creative point. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin not only have an understanding of one another, but of dynamically masterful and depressive tones. With the way they closed Stygian Bough Volume I out, anticipation for its second installment will continue to grow.