Feral Season – Rotting Body in the Range of Light Review

Feral Season is a great band name, and Rotting Body in the Range of Light is an album title I can definitely get behind. It’s nice when a band is able to immediately tell you what you’re going to be in for before you’ve reached the play button, and everything about this package, from the promo text to the “black metal” label to the album art, looked promising. Maybe it’s because although this is the debut release for the American duo that is Feral Season, both its members are seasoned musicians: Karl Cordtz of Chrch and Patrick Hill of Occlith. There’s something about this album that screams confidence, and when the it begins, it’s easy to see why.

Feral Season describe their music as being influenced by “early-to-mid Scandinavian black metal,” with a focus on “hallucinatory soundscapes,” and it’s hard to argue with the phrasing. At its core, and as opener “Tied to the Sun” will quickly demonstrate, Rotting Body in the Range of Light has a fierce, angry disposition that allows the duo to deftly wield the most effective tools of their trade. Cordtz’s vocals predominately take the form of vicious rasps, complemented strongly by an assault of twin guitars that favor gritty tremolos with sharpened melodies that stay with you long after the album’s done. The occasional synth wanders its way in to accentuate ideas, but for the most part, the metal here snarls, bites, and claws its way to the forefront. It reminds me of Kvaen at times, but darker and angrier, and with an American “feel” that I have difficulty putting into words.

Of course, it’s not such a challenge to create reasonably heavy black metal that gets the head nodding and the hands air-drumming. What makes Rotting Body in the Range of Light such a strong album is its nuance, atmosphere, and general unpredictability. “Methuselah” takes these concepts to another level, opening with horror-esque synths that gradually build into the meat of the song, a heavy, brooding escapade into a mighty narrative. Synths, clean vocals, and subtle variations on the lead melody make this longest track of the album fly by. “Thickets,” like much of the album, uses acoustic guitars to great effect, reminding me of Nechochwen in both style and feel. The “black metal” anger that dominates the album is belied by melancholic passages, introspective verses, and a surprisingly emotional journey—several of the album’s acoustic moments wouldn’t feel so out-of-place on a Swallow the Sun record. Of particular note is Patrick Hills’s drumming, which is worth paying attention to—lush, varied, and never quite what you expect, it adds a surprising layer to the whole that helps set Feral Season apart from their contemporaries.

If there are criticisms to be laid against Feral Season‘s debut, they are few and far between, though I would suggest that occasionally the material becomes a little too wrapped up in its own journey. The title track, for example, builds an imposing, doom-like wall of riffs and drums, taking the listener on a grim seven-minute journey. I especially like the interlude halfway through the track, a methodical, quiet moment that slowly builds and swells before exploding back into the majestic horror that is the Feral Season way. And yet, the track feels just a bit too long at seven minutes, with the black metal sections that sandwich said interlude losing a bit of steam towards the end—though frankly, when the music sounds this good and pulls off catharsis this well, it’s hard to complain about there being too much of it, especially when the whole album clocks in only at forty-five minutes.

Rotting Body in the Range of Light has to be one of the most promising debuts I’ve heard in some time, and I admire the way that Cordtz and Hill are able to take their influences, passions, and experiences over the past year and blend them together with their own unique feel. Their process took away none of the ferocity, elegance, or catharsis of the style, and the end result is an engaging and enjoyable record from beginning to end. If this is what Feral Season can do as they are beginning to explore and define their sound, I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what their next album will be—because this is a very good start.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: feralseason.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/feralseasonbm
Released Worldwide: October 22nd, 2021

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