All The Heavens Were A Bell – A Wheel Of Burning Eyes

Posted: 2 February 2023 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

Cruel Nature Records – 6th January 2023

If James Watts’ social media postings were to be taken at face value, you’d likely conclude he spends all his time loafing about, eating, giving the finger to his cat, shits a lot, and only showers before gigs. These may all be true, but he’s also ne off Newcastle’s most prolific purveyors of noisy shit, recording and performing with Plague Rider, Friend, Lovely Wife, Lump Hammer, Dybbuk, and Möbius, gigging locally on a constant basis, and touring frequently, too.

All The Heavens Were A Bell is a musical vehicle finds Watts collaborating with another prodigious powerhouse for scary dark noise, Esmé Louise Newman (Penance Stare, Petrine Cross, Fashion Tips, 1727), and A Wheel Of Burning Eyes is their second release, which they recorded in the spring of 2022, and it’s pitched – somewhat eclectically – as being ‘recommended listening for acolytes of Sunn O))), Coil, Deleuze & Guattari, Bastard Noise, Sarah Kane, William Blake, Les Legion Noires, Mark Fisher, Black Boned Angel, Laboria Cuboniks et al’.

I’m often intrigued when musical works reference literary sources as influences, especially when they’re not necessarily the obvious ones. Much as I am an immense fan and student of William Burroughs, I am conscious that his influence has been milked dry to a point bordering on desiccation. But what can be drawn from Mark Fisher and the labyrinthine complexities of the writings of Deleuze & Guattari to forge something musical?

Outlining an album created using ‘both self-constructed and commercially available sound machines, exploring the space between free improvisation and absolute intentionality, theopoetics, illness as vector, abstracted ritual, dread drone, trance-formation, black ambience, doomed electronics, hellfire submergence, and ophanim glow,’ A Wheel Of Burning Eyes offers intrigue and a certain intellect as its background.

Extrapolating all of that from the audio isn’t all that straightforward, of course. How it manifests on these two side-length tracks is in a shimmering, shifting wall of billowing noise. It’s not harsh, but it is dense, the churning drone of ‘Usurper, Destroyer’ churns clouds of sound on sound up on themselves, and there may be voices away in the distance or it might be your mind playing tricks or it might be tinnitus. Either way, it’s a gut-shredding experience expanding over eighteen minutes, and it doesn’t soften or diminish at any point – it’s a relentless grating grind of snarling noise as heavy as earthworks, and building to a thick, shredding wall of dense sound on sound that invites obvious comparisons to SUNN O))), but in fact does something quite different – and more intense – with the punishing layers and textures so rough as to tear off your skin several layers at a time.

‘Glowing Light of Ophanim’ references the wheels of the Lord’s Heavenly chariot referenced variously in the bible, and is derived from the Hebrew אוֹפַנִּים or ʿōp̄annīm. Many listeners won’t be that fussed about historical / biblical context detail when immersing themselves in these huge swathes of sound, but they ought to be, not just because it’s a tectonic slab of deep, dark, drone, but because it really does reach the parts so many dark doomy drone noise works never even get close to.

You feel A Wheel Of Burning Eyes resonate and reverberate around your body, encompassing and enveloping. And you know that this is special.

AA

cover

Comments
  1. Little Onion says:

    Immersive especially the first track!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s