Pyramids – A Northern Meadow Profound Lore Records, 2015

Recently some mainstream folks have been really excited about Deafheaven, a kind of indie/shoegaze-inflected take on black metal that undeniably has its merits. Personally I don’t really get the big deal. There have been bands doing interesting and more palatable versions of black metal for years, and they haven’t risen to the same level of indie exposure.

One of those bands is Pyramids, whose latest release A Northern Meadow seems to have struck a compelling new balance between more overt black metal influences and their earlier dreamy ambient leanings.

Whereas their self-titled was a weird washy mess of endlessly reverberating abstraction, A Northern Meadow dials back on the reverb just enough that you can make out the songs buried underneath this time, with all their darkly melodic guitar lines and washed-out dream-pop vocals rising from some half-forgotten memory that never really happened. There are prominent programmed drums driving the songs, but the hazy ambient electronics generally take a supporting role behind the guitar riffs this time.

All this new relative clarity reveals the band’s uncelebrated talent for writing cool metal songs. Interesting harmonic twists and turns abound, as chords shimmer in and out of consonance. Two back-to-back highlights include “I Have Four Sons, All Named for Men We Lost to War” and the delightfully melodramatic “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye”.

For some someone like me who loves elements of black metal but finds most traditional black metal to be unfathomably dull, A Northern Meadow strikes a near-perfect balance between styles. I guess I’m only interested in the hipster version of black metal, huh? Anyway, this is a fantastic and engaging effort from a strangely underrated band, that I didn’t see coming.

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