Book of Sand
1. Now the Green Blade Rises
2. Black is the Color
3. Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime
4. All the Pretty Horses
5. Wayfaring Stranger
6. Arran Boat Song
There was a time not so long ago that black metal from the United States was a sorry affair. The so-called luminaries of the scene churned out a lot of subpar records, some of which were utterly laughable (cough*Krieg*cough). But in more recent times a new wave of black metal influenced bands has emerged within the country that actually have musical credibility. Though they are obviously influenced by the original wave back in the early 90s, some of these current bands are taking the elements of black metal and renewing it with a different musical perspective. In some cases, you simply have hipsters being noisy and shrieking, but in others, you are treated to some interesting music. Book of Sand is one such band that stands apart from both the tired and stale Darkclones and the horn rimmed glasses wearing, sweater adorned (and most likely Portland based) black metal tourists.
The Bees and the Butterflies has served as my introduction to the band and initially I was baffled at the lack of treble in the production. These days, it seems many black metal bands see the left side of the equalizer and get intimidated by those sliders, but Book of Sand features considerably less treble than most bands. There is no doubt that their lo-fi recording methods will turn off a lot of listeners (for instance, anyone who thinks Gamma Ray is extreme metal that really pushes the envelope). But within seconds of realizing that a) the drums are buried way back in the mix along with the vocals and b) treble is for the weak, I found myself drawn into the songs. Even with so much pushed back in the mix and in odd ways, very basic melodic structures of the songs are extremely prominent. I don't want to describe it as a bass driven thing, though. Perhaps more of a baritone roar. Or rumble. Regardless, the songs presented here all contain solid melodic movements that make the music quite interesting. There's some somber sounding violins as interludes to remind you that serious black metal is serious, but the majority of The Bees and the Butterflies is a thick morass of black metal inspired music.
Apparently Book of Sand's lyrical stance is heavy on the anarchist viewpoint (and not the "go to school naked" type of anarchy), which also sets it apart from the "we heart Satan" standard. Of course, the treatment of the vocals makes it utterly impossible to decipher without Cliff Notes, so he could get away with singing about entomology for all I can tell.
This sort of lo-fi black metal either results in painfully useless noise or a surprisingly solid approach. Book of Sand thankfully falls into the latter. More importantly, they're doing their part in establishing current USBM as a worthwhile subgenre for black metal.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 01/2012