Despite the recent rise to prominence of numerous female-driven projects and bands, such as Myrkur, Darkher and Mortals to name but a few, there’s no denying that metal is still largely the domain of men. Sure there have always been exceptions to the rule — the likes of Girlschool and Kittie have been knocking about for years — but considering there are approximately 3.7 billion of them on this planet, women are still massively underrepresented across the genre. The fact that terms like “female-fronted” are so often used as stylistic descriptors demonstrates that they’re still considered something of a novelty. While the number of girls writing and playing metal might be a mere fraction of that of their male counterparts, however, only a fool would dismiss a band on the basis of chromosomes alone.
Season of Arrows were formed in Nashville, Tennessee in 2014 and play a distinctive blend of doom-infused sludge, with a hint of stoner and blues tossed in for good measure. While the band’s instrumental duties are all handled by blokes — and very well too, I might add — their sound is completed by frontwoman Stormie Wakefield, whose dark, hypnotic vocals lend their music an enchanting, occult-like air. I’d come to feel as though I’d been reviewing wall-to-wall black metal lately, so their latest offering Give It to the Mountain came along at just the right time for me. Being an absolute sucker for Kylesa and Black Moth — two bands with whom they share numerous stylistic similarities — I was genuinely looking forward to exploring this one.
I’m pleased to report that the anticipation was worthwhile too. Now that’s not to say that Give It to the Mountain is perfect — far from it — however, it has character in abundance and is executed with poise and flair. Season of Arrows are a band that doesn’t like to rush things; they play music that manages to feel both intense and yet simultaneously unhurried. Rarely advancing much beyond a very modest walking pace, rumbling basslines pin down mammoth, groove-laden riffs that don’t just sound heavy, they physically feel it. Wakefield’s voice is what makes the record, however; it has a dreamy, mesmeric quality that is utterly captivating. Highlights include the eerily beautiful “Autumn Wings” and “Bellow” — my personal favorite — which has a haunting, nostalgic quality that is difficult to describe but eminently relatable; it’s like a soundtrack to lost memories of fond times.
While Give It to the Mountain is for the most part resoundingly enjoyable, however, it’s an imperfect beast, and its muddy, loping tempo does occasionally hold it back somewhat. At times the natural flow of the music is such that it feels as though it wants to pick up the pace a little, however, this rarely comes to fruition and can prove frustrating as a result; it would add another dimension to the record were it not quite as staunchly intent on keeping things slow. Fortunately, the production value often steps in to salvage even the weaker passages, with a warmth and clarity that gracefully harnesses the band’s seductive energy — the aspect of their sound that really makes them stand out from the crowd.
Although the album certainly does have its flaws, Give It to the Mountain is impressive nonetheless. Despite its pace at times letting it down, it feels sufficiently familiar for fans of other sludge and doom acts to enjoy, yet unique enough to possess its own distinct character and vibe. While the musicianship showcased is impressively solid throughout, there’s no question that Wakefield’s voice is the real star of the show. It’s genuinely refreshing to hear a record with so much emphasis on vocal performance, and minor compositional issues notwithstanding, she sounds absolutely stunning. If Season of Arrows set out to write music to make the hairs on the back of the listener’s neck stand on end then they have succeeded in style.