By Tate Bengston
Eagle Twin mainman Gentry Densley has been creating unsettling music since the early 90s. Known for his work in Iceburn (later redubbed “The Iceburn Collective”), Densley gained a following for his ability to blend jazz with hardcore. Densley’s jazz penchant was not only authentic in spirit, but also learned in approach; his was no token eclecticism designed to spice up an otherwise banal exercise in hardcore, but rather fruit borne of a genuine musical laboratory in which something new and vital was created.
In the time since The Iceburn Collective’s dissolution in 2001, Densley has found a new object for his experimental zeal: drone/doom. While Densley’s previous collaboration, Ascend (which also features Greg Anderson, known for his work in Sunn 0))), Goatsnake, Thorr’s Hammer, and Burning Witch, among others), tilted towards the drone side of things, Eagle Twin is unadulterated doom.
At least on the surface, opening cut “In the Beginning was the Scream” comes off as a fairly typical slab of Southern Lordy doom; crawling tempos, slow-motion riffs, and guttural vocals mixed with detached chanting. However, second track “Murder of…” reveals Eagle Twin’s distinctive modus operandi as Densley begins throwing a few curve balls, albeit with such tasteful subtlety that it takes a few exposures to grasp the irregularities. Most notably, the variegated tones of the guitar draw as much from the deep, feedbacky rumblings of drone/doom as from the slightly muffled, cleaner tone that Scott “Wino” Weinrich has perfected over the course of his last several bands.
At this point in time, two tracks into The Unkindness of Crows, Eagle Twin has shown itself to be an extremely competent doom band that has touched upon something unusual. At the same time, there is a sense that perhaps the band was waiting, holding back, slowly luring the unwitting listener down a seemingly familiar path that leads to unexplored territory. It is with several of the subsequent tracks that this uniqueness would be brought into sharp relief.
Third track “Birds of Black Hot Fire” is the first shot across the bow, the opening salvo in Eagle Twin’s revivification of done/doom, the leading statement in its manifesto. Here, ominous tones escalate the tension while the guitar restrains itself, only to burst into an incensed explosion before imploding into another abysmal dirge. It is within this dirge that Eagle Twin reveals its more abstract side, with a swirl of ideas (including a surprisingly frenetic guitar solo) and rhythmic search-and-rescues harking to the ability of jazz combos to find, lose, and recover grooves at will. All this is done without squandering that precious sense that there is a coherent picture being painted, a picture for which improvisation and planning are required not only in equal measure, but in such a manner that the one is an integral component of the other, and vice versa.
While the solemn “Storytelling of Ravens” takes a bit too long to develop into something interesting, the mammoth fifteen-minute song that follows, “Crow Hymn,” rectifies that problem in short order. By blending a characteristic doom riff with some intriguing guitar work, a rich tonal palette is conjured. The song is stretched further with the bizarre rhythms that hit a few minutes into the track, which serve as harbingers of a chanted mantra that is paired with a funeral procession riff. This relatively typical riff-oriented passage is constantly subjected to interruptions, strange collapses in which the regimented riff/rhythm interaction gives way to jagged, noise-mongering explorations. It is here that Eagle Twin best demonstrates not only the promise of its vision but also the capability of Densley. It would be all-too-easy for Densley to simply allow a musical idea to wander into meaningless noise; however, Densley’s deft working over of these abstract moments brings a sense of intention to the music, a wisdom that comprehends that fine line between experimentation and indulgence.
Much as Densley used jazz in order to elevate hardcore in The Iceburn Collective, so does he use jazz (among other things) in order to plunge doom further into its depths. As The Iceburn Collective cast hardcore in a new light, so does Eagle Twin cast doom in a new darkness.