Evergreen Refuge – Skyward (Review)

Evergreen Refuge - SkywardThis is the tenth album from US one man atmospheric black metal project Evergreen Refuge.

I like Evergreen Refuge a lot. I may not listen to this project that often, (partially due to the colossal song lengths, and partially due to needing to be in a certain mood), but the artist behind this band has pumped out some truly memorable and impressive work since first coming to light in 2011, (that’s right; he has amassed a considerable body of work in that relatively brief time). His enviable discography has been enriched once more, with this ambitious, (as always), single track, boasting an imposing duration of 68 minutes.

Mixing a core of nature-inspired black metal influences with introspective grace and ambient texture, Skyward is a rich and layered journey into the world of Evergreen Refuge. Said world is deeply reverent of the natural environment and its unsullied corners, and worships this with due passion and fervour.

This is contemplative music. It can seen as a potentially daunting prospect due to the the music’s length, but this is merely a mirage. Skyward is welcoming and inclusive, prompting the listener to gaze up at the heavens and consider a world without humanity’s ubiquitous touch. What would it be like? How would the world be different? How would nature evolve and develop without humankind’s interference and destructive presence? These, and many other thoughts go through your head as Skyward engages you in a conversation with the starlit darkness above.

The music that achieves such an introspective state in the listener is loosely based on a core of black metal, but fleshed out to great depths with ambient elements and a layered delivery of great musical substance. There are no vocals, nothing to distract or detract from the music itself, as if a human voice is unnecessary when considering the enormous vastness of the natural world. In this, as in many other areas, Skyward strikes the right tones and moods.

As beautiful as it is, nature can also be wild and deadly, however. This is reflected in the fuzzy blackened guitars and pounding drums, providing the music with a dangerous exterior when deployed, like unsheathing fangs. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and Evergreen Refuge’s guitars circle like predators hunting for prey in the sky.

Skyward is gratuitous and resplendent in the way that the wild is; everywhere you look there is something to explore, something to wonder at. Like nature, however, this is frequently delivered in an understated way. Depth and substance is achieved through minimalism and textured performance, rather than ostentatious complexity or busy composition for the sake of it.

Skyward is a powerful new addition to the Evergreen Refuge discography. It’s an immense and rewarding journey that the listener is taken on. This may ‘only’ be 68 minutes in length, but within that time is a whole world. Will you explore it with Evergreen Refuge?

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