Skullflower - The Spirals Of Great HarmThere's no holding back Skullflower at the moment. Aside from numerous digital and short-run releases emanating from their Bandcamp page, the release of The Spirals Of Great Harm coincides with the release of The Black Iron That Has Fell From The Stars, To Dwell Within a vinyl release on Nashazphone. The Spirals Of Great Harm on Cold Spring follows Draconis another expansive 2 CD affair from Skullflower. The Spirals Of Great Harm references Dante's Inferno but really it is just another piece in the mythological and cosmological jigsaw put together by Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies as Skullflower. It is a personal and idiosyncratic rendering of Egyptian Mythology and its Gods, wrapped up in the English occult tradition forged by Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant and Austin Osman Spare amongst others.
You almost feel sucked into The Spirals Of Great Harm on the opener 'Khepsh', as it descends with what sounds like a hydraulic hum, burrowing deeper with bursts of airy droning guitars before they're fired up and let loose with a bomber squadron buzz. 'Furthur' crafts a sound of black psychedelia from its interweaving twin guitar assault riddled with moog oscillations.
Sometimes Skullflower get referred to as a noise band but they're not really. It's certainly been an aspect of the group in times past but it's not the central one now. The discordant atmospherics that surround 'Tangled Light Of Isis' take the form of a loose improvisation where detuned guitars are cast against a distant roar. The shape shifting electronic frequencies that bobble up throughout this one recall Bower's earlier solo project Total and even some of the earlier electronics from Broken Flag days. It's not noise though.
With a title summoning demons, 'Furfur' is archetypal Skullflower; a rush of squalling circular riffing over caustic drone laced with added analogue oscillations. So too is 'Thunder Dragon' but while 'Furfur' is the shortest track here the expansive 'Thunder Dragon' which rates as the longest track on the first disc, is an altogether different beast. Here wild majestic guitar strokes waver over buzzing discord and droning textures. Its flight remains anchored, the twin arcs of distortion rooted but unhindered casting layer upon layer of saturated glistening creating a meditational almost devotional air. Immense and rooted it conversely goes places like the best Skullflower music, if you only go with it. 'Thunder Dragon' is a key piece on The Spirals Of Great Harm and its worth succumbing to its languid beauty allowing its layers of unfettered guitar squall to wash over you.
The final two tracks are notable for the inclusion of chiming organ. Shrouded in stretched drone and buzz guitar that grand organ chime on 'Nectar And Venom' is pitched somewhere between haunted carousel swirl and a ritual death march. I'm reminded of Ela Orleans' Circles of Upper and Lower Hell another album that looked to Dante's Inferno for inspiration. Where Ela used Dante to represent desolation and depression, the hell of Inferno for Skullflower acts more as a metaphor for a lost Englishness. Like much of the rest of the UK it's a populace lost in consumerism and credit and a celebrity seeking brashness. You can hear it too in 'Fuck The New Estate' which I don't think is a comment on new council housing either. Here the two pronged assault of guitars jostle with airy organ chords, shifting into a blurred haze before bowing out in a mass of flickering frequencies and tones.
In comparison, the second disc pitches a different Skullflower sound. This time obfuscation and obscurity seems to be the key. Each song seems distant, set behind a gaudy veneer conjuring inchoate melodies from the air. 'Rotting Jewelled Stormclouds' is a distant battle hymn beamed in from centuries past. Listen close and you can pick out bustling voices and the disembodied strains of a fanfare. Carthage was a city that figured in Dante's Inferno but made famous by the Roman statesman Cato who finished all speeches no matter the subject or intent with the immortal line of the title. But that's beside the point, as 'And Carthage Must Be Destroyed' is another hazy, obscured recording where I'm sure I can hear piano and the tinkling of bells and chimes cast against the saturated guitar drone atmospherics. Whether these phantom sounds really exist remains to be seen but it's something Skullflower have been doing for a while; both Draconis and Fucked On A Pile of Corpses also made manifest these hallucinatory instruments within the amorphous swells of Skullflower's guitars.
At times, like the Ouroboros serpent, The Spirals Of Great Harm even references itself. 'The Firebright And Linda Show' is a blackened hymn; a devotional dirge suspended in arcing billows of interweaving guitars over grand keening electronics which shares an affinity with the earlier meditational 'Thunder Dragon'. 'Khephra' - which takes its title from an Egyptian God - offers a harsher take on the opener 'Khepsh' allowing the heavy buzz of guitars to take a more prominent role over the subtle drones. Interestingly 'Khepsh' is derived from Egyptian mythology too, which fits nicely with the other new Skullflower release The Black Iron That Has Fell From The Stars, To Dwell Within released on the Cairo based label Nashazphone which is the first in their 'The Darkness of Aegypt' trilogy.
On 'Ice Nine' heavy keyboard stabs pound behind a veneer of searing high-pitched guitar frequencies. And behind that lies swirling electronic oscillations. The instruments caught up in a battle for supremacy. The Spirals Of Great Harm closes with the H.P. Lovecraft inspired titled track 'Yuggoth Within'. A dank and dark textured offering of circular riffing laying markers as a means to escape the stifling homogeneity, fraud and deception that blights much of today.
On The Spirals Of Great Harm Skullflower continue to expound on the magic, mystery, mythology found within and outside in the rolling hills, lakes and countryside of Cumbria where the members of Skullflower reside. On The Spirals Of Great Harm Skullflower's blackened squall is adorned with an intricacy and subtlety that makes the descent into the abyss both alluring and powerful. For more information go to Cold Spring