1. The Bastard Wind
2. Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)
3. Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)
5. The Unbodied Air
Genuine collaborations between two sets of artists are rare. For their new album, Stygian Bough Volume I, the members—Dylan Desmond (bass/vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums/vocals)—of doom duo Bell Witch didn’t just team up (again) with dark folk elegist Erik Moggridge (guitars/vocals) of Aerial Ruin, they fully integrated the two outfits. While Moggridge has been a part of Bell Witch’s sonic fingerprint on all their prior records, perhaps most notably for his vocals on their previous full-length, Mirror Reaper, he’s now part of the very fabric that makes up the five hauntingly beautiful, strikingly heavy songs that comprise Stygian Bough Volume I.
Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are officially a trio on Stygian Bough Volume I. The addition of guitar to the bass and drum-only dynamic came naturally as the threesome discussed potential models for their joint effort. Ulver’s unorthodox folk album Kveldssanger came up as did Candlemass’ milemarker Nightfall. But the real fuel to Stygian Bough Volume I was the Bell Witch track, “Rows (of Endless Waves),” which was not only Moggridge’s first appearance with Bell Witch but also a track that has deeply resonated with Desmond over the years. With the approach in place, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin collectively wrote five desolate yet mystical songs that defy categorization. From the mournful “The Bastard Wind” and the crepuscular “Heaven Torn Low (the passage)” to the monstrous “Heaven Torn Low (the toll)” and the liturgical gloom of “The Unbodied Air,” Stygian Bough: Volume I is an album of deep, dark undertows and careful respite.
Stygian Bough Volume I was recorded and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Recording Co. in Seattle. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin then took the full-length to mastering ace Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service in Chicago. The result is a full-length of profound lows and delicate highs. The overall production fits Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin’s quiet/introspective and heavy/loud dynamic well. One listen to “Bastard Wind” and instrumental piece “Prelude,” and it’s easy to understand the trio’s sonic preferences, which fall somewhere between Roy Harper, Bert Jansch, Warning, and Candlemass. As for the triumvirate’s next steps, they’re planning on touring in support of Stygian Bough – Volume I and eventually collaborating on music for Volume II.