When I furtively snatched Entrail‘s new album Eater of Starlight from the promo pit, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Given that Entrail recently played a show alongside Vouna, whose latest material was recorded entirely at Wolves in the Throne Room‘s studio (Owl Lodge), and, like me, resides in the gloom-shrouded Pacific Northwest, I was easily intrigued. Choosing to review her new album was a no-brainer. Looking back, I am convinced that going in blind was the best possible way to be introduced to the one-woman experimental drone project of Christine Anderson. Entrail‘s songs on Eater of Starlight are all at once perfectly grim, meditative, and stranger than ever.
While Christine’s background in violin and composition sets her apart from most other metal musicians, it was the lyrics on Eater of Starlight that caused me to realize how fiercely Entrail marches to the beat of her own drum. Exhibit A:
“I am Cathartidae. I am Cathartidae.
I am the carcass eater. I am the carcass flesh.
I am the vomit that burns a hole. And then I am the hole.
I am stepping through the hole. And then I am the step.”
Listening to “Cathartidae,” the second song of six on the album, is like experiencing a dream within a dream. The lyrics are some of the most freakish and bizarre I have ever encountered. Entrail articulates each word with great care, putting emphasis on syllables where you don’t expect it, and utilizes careful repetition to make for a truly haunting experience. The word Cathartidae is derived from cathartes, Greek for “purifier,” and is the scientific name for a group of seven different species of birds called New World Vultures. Vultures in the condor family Cathartidae have a hooked and relatively weak beak designed to feed from the decaying flesh of dead animals. I restrained myself from falling down a dangerous Wikipedia rabbit hole learning about birds of prey, likely avoiding some ghastly nightmares in the process, when the brooding lyrics eventually gave way to gentle, more hopeful synth layers.
After listening to Entrail‘s first two short releases Ursula (2015) and 100 Years Remaining (2017), I can attest that her work remains deeply personal but is far more refined and confident on Eater of Starlight. Standout track “Rain” had me completely enraptured. The song starts with swampy wah synths that ebb and flow and later features outbreaks of wounded vocals, breathy saxophone, and a truly epic climax followed by scattered plucked strings. “The Cup,” on the other hand, showcases layers of discordant synths and strings before Entrail‘s mesmerizing vocals stumble in. Surprisingly, her calm and spacey voice on this track most closely resembles that of Linda Perhacs, the Californian dental hygienist/psychedelic folk singer, or singer-songwriter Sibylle Baier. Lastly, the rhythmic drumming and ethereal vocal layers on final track “Dust of Dreamers” produce a sound not unlike Myrkur‘s interpretations of traditional folk songs — one I am 100% on board with.
Because Entrail‘s work is largely performance-based, I hope to get the opportunity to see her perform in person. Christine is motivated by the connections she forms with her audience, and her band name even alludes to the feeling she has when she performs of presenting a part of her gut to her listeners. What is most worrisome to me about Eater of Starlight, however, is that the excessive morbidness may prevent her music from appealing to more than a niche fanbase. Though Entrail‘s songs are delightfully dark and cathartic, Eater of Starlight is no soothing soundtrack for bedtime. It takes a very particular state of mind to opt for listening to her somber crooning.
Nonetheless, Entrail does a thoughtful job of combining violin, voice, bass, and synth to produce a moody and personal album that shocks, surprises, and continues to help keep
Portland the Pacific Northwest weird. Pressing up against boundaries with her hard-hitting lyrics, Entrail is not afraid to take risks. Eater of Starlight is not for the faint of heart as it details Christine’s falling-upward into an offworld headspace. Though if you are feeling intrepid enough to be subjected to some wild experimental drone, this third release by Entrail is quite the ride.