Locusts and Honey – Teach Me to Live That I Dread the Grave As Little As My Bed Review

Although professing the inclusion of funeral doom, black metal, and dark ambient, Teach Me to Live That I Dread the Grave As Little As My Bed is a gentle album. Locusts and Honey gently ebbs and flows along well-defined lines of expectations set by patiently unwinding epics like Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper and Black Boned Angel’s The End in devastating, torturously slow and mammoth riffs, colossal percussion, and vocals from Hell. However, like these albums, there is a core of light, a glimmer of humanity that shines through the vicious and viscous. Locusts and Honey takes inspiration from the well-preserved sacrificial bog bodies of Denmark and Ireland – the macabre – and finds lessons of a life well lived – the light.

UK duo Locusts and Honey is comprised of instrumentalist Tomás Robertson of black metal acts Gergesenes, Nargothrond, and Urne Buriall, and vocalist Stephen Murray of sludge metal quartet Hooden. While influence from black and sludge can be felt, Locusts and Honey blurs the lines between funeral doom and drone in its debut, mountainous dirges pushed to a crackling breaking point, not unlike the noise in BIG|BRAVE’s latest meditation. While rooted in 90s doom styles in Corrupted, Winter, and Esoteric, black metal’s trademark rawness in acts like Darkthrone or Strid offers a scathing overtone to the slow-motion beatdown, depicting cinematic landscapes of dark ambient artists or composers like William Basinski and Henryk Górecki. While Teach Me to Live That I May Dread the Grave As Little As My Bed is far from perfect in its top-heavy design and noisy drone impenetrability, its meditative and melodic qualities make it a promising listen.

It may feel counterintuitive to praise a drone/funeral doom album for its brevity, but Locusts and Honey clocks in just over twenty-eight minutes for their debut.1 Described as one song broken into six movements, the centerpiece is its second “Leathern Cord,” whose mountainous waves greet lamenting melodies that inject a burning tension with a patience that makes its twelve-minute runtime satisfying and evocative. Meanwhile, “Beauty and Atrocity” and “Confraternities of the Cord” embrace peaceful melodies alongside sprawling dense atmospherics, while closer “Damnation of Memoriae” serves as a final look back at the dead in its dark ambient emphasis and diminished chord progression. “Traitor to Love” is the closest to a black metal attack, its dense drone giving a convincing caricature of black metal tremolo picking and blastbeats. Murray’s formidable vocals range from sinister shrieks to hellish growls, shining in “Leathern Cord” and “Traitor to Love,” although the guitar remains the focus throughout. Like any good drone record, Locusts and Honey focuses on utter saturation and poignant evocation, although the effective incorporation of gentle melody is noteworthy.

Although the album is billed as a single song, its movements feel a bit uneven. Although bookended by ambient pieces, Locusts and Honey’s use of “Leathern Cord” as the album climax puts every following track in its shadow. Intro “Surfeit of Lampreys” does a fine albeit brief job of building the suspense, but “Confraternities of the Cord” reiterates its motifs in a slightly more melodic fashion in a significantly shorter runtime – begging the question as to why it’s considered distinct from the main event. While “Beauty and Atrocity” is a better and more honed version of the melodic and “Traitor to Love” maintains its own more blackened identity, each track following “Leathern Cord” never quite lives up. Because of the drone tag, like BIG|BRAVE’s A Chaos of Flowers, the guitar tone that Robertson utilizes is absolutely noisy and inaccessible, and its effectiveness depends on the listener, as it regularly drowns out Murray’s otherwise vicious vocal performance.

Locusts and Honey’s wordsy debut blessedly lets the music do the talking for the dead. Surprisingly more positive than its source material suggests, its dual emphasis on mammoth riffs and tense melody inject more memorable moments than much of contemporary drone/funeral doom offerings. While it remains top-heavy with easy highlight “Leathern Cord” right out of the gates, it nonetheless offers complete and absurdly heavy saturation in ways sure to satisfy. While obscenely devastating and as dark as you expect, Teach Me to Live That I Dread the Grave as Little as My Bed incorporates melody and gentleness in a concise package that hints at greatness to come.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hypaethral Records
Releases Worldwide: May 24th, 2024

Show 1 footnote

  1. Whose title feels longer than the runtime.
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