Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the most exciting game show this side of Celebrity Jeopardy [Applause Please]. We have a terrific match-up tonight, and we need you, Toilet Nation to help us decide who wins! In tonight’s episode, three bands named after the blood of the owls will be facing off to decide who is the featheriest, most sanguine band in heavy music. Our contestants tonight are: Owl’s Blood, Blood Owl, and Blood of the Black Owl. Don’t change that channel, because it’s up to you to decide: WHO. WORE. IT. BEST! [Applause Please]
For those of you just tuning in, let me reiterate the rules of our little contest. On each episode, we’ll present a different topic and ask you which band’s name best captures the spirit of that topic. Parameters upon which you must vote include: aesthetics, sonic qualities, and general presentation. Then, at the end of the episode, you’ll cast your vote for whomever wore the title best.
In tonight’s episode, we’re talking about Strigiformes, or more specifically, bloody Strigiformes. That’s right, for some reason a bunch of bands are named after the blood cell-rich body fluid of birds of prey often mistaken for aliens by rural-1950-West-Virginia-drunk salt of the earth Americans. In ancient times, owls were considered bearers of knowledge and wisdom, harbingers of truth, justice, and war. Moreover, blood is a cleansing necessity, one that precipitates life and covers wrongdoing. These two concepts considered together, then, indicate that any band bearing the name of both blood and owl must be an act of valor, knowledge, and purifying power. You may also consider the color of plumage, volume of hemoglobin, and ability to rotate a neck 270 degrees as criteria.
So, now that we know the rules, let’s spend some time with our contestants.
Contestant 1: Owl’s Blood
Owl’s Blood are a conventional black metal band that has been operating out of the Basque Country of Spain since at least 2011. In that year, they debuted their first release, a rough demo called Lunar Equilibrium that evoked a chilly, nocturnal environ with moonlit riffs and ecologically-themed lyrics. The band continued in this tradition for their next two releases, an EP in 2012 called Eerie Watercolors and a full-length in 2014 called Cold Night of Meditation. This full-length album finds the band whisking through a monochromatic, slumbering forest, paying tribute to the beauty of nature with bleak, triumphant, and melodic black metal. There isn’t much that deviates from the norm of this style of metal (raspy screams, lo-fi production, steady, consistent drums), but the excellent tremolo riffs and heartfelt melodies sure give an impression of earnestness; I, for one, found my heart soaring across a canopy of black trees, searching for prey and thankful for life and abundance. Surely this band does honor to its namesake.
Contestant 2: Blood Owl
Blood Owl are a hardcore band from Portlant, Oregon who have shown a sturdy work ethic to carve a name for themselves in the dense hardcore/scram genre. Thankfully for them, they’ve got the rocking riffs, honesty, and layered keys to add a bit of nuance and finesse to a sound that can so often paint by-the-numbers. Their most recent release, 2014’s Swimming with Swords evokes some of the more frenzied moments of contemporaries like Every Time I Die while drenching everything in a dense layer of noise, feedback, and emotion. It evokes both the savagery and refinement of Athena’s owl, going from full-tilt rage to gracious benevolence faster that you can say, “mythographer.” On their various social media pages, the band incites fans to give in to those primal urges bubbling up from the primordial wellspring of emotion and instinct and to simply move in a way that the soul directs. Perhaps there is wisdom in that.
Contestant 3: Blood of the Black Owl
Blood of the Black Owl are a devotional doom and drone band from Seattle, Washington that has been crafting cleansing, animistic soundscapes since 2004. Although their first album Blood of the Black Owl presented a unique fusion of doom and black metal with folk trappings, the band would go on to mostly abandon metal in favor of a deeply meditative folk/spiritual drone sound. That may have signaled the death knell for some bands, but breaking free of their non-feathery confines and taking flight into a more intensely devotional style allowed the band to incorporate a wide array of sounds and techniques and to more authentically explore the shamanistic subject matter their albums address. The excellent 2010 release A Banishing Ritual is a 41-minute song separated into four distinct movements that walks listeners through a healing rite used to exorcise a malicious spirit. Metal elements rear their heads in the tribal drumming and imposing riffs, but the true power of this work lies in the meditative recursion of the drone accented by the pan flutes and windy passages. It truly feels as if this band channels the spirit of an owl protector to cast out the bad blood, and it’s an entrancing, engrossing listen through a stark, but ultimately rewarding atmosphere.
Now that we’ve heard from our contestants, it’s time for you, citizens of the Toilet Nation, to claim the winner. Which of these bands is the most likely to make your head swivel back and forth? Which of these bands will drain out all of your bad blood? Which of these bands sets your heart soaring on nocturnal flights of fancy? Which of these bands most resembles Stolas from the Ars Goetia? Sound off below.