The Will of a Million- “Les Étoiles” Review + Song Premiere

The Will of a Million- "Les Etoiles"

In 2014, I migrated out from the swamps of Florida and into the decidedly more welcoming climate of Portland, Oregon. Before my move, I tended to feature a lot of groups from the Pacific Northwest on my website. For some reason or another, Oregonian submissions slowed down after my move. One of the strongest regional labels to make an impression on me has been Eugene-based Glossolalia Records, whose diverse catalog of artists in the noise and metal communities appeals to me in its unique approach. With a focus on local artists, one would expect the occasional flop, but it seems that Eugene’s climate is ripe. One of the most promising acts was revealed to me last year in the form of a split tape. While Grst instantly caught attention with its ferocious black metal assault, its pairing with The Will of a Million was an interesting one. Decidedly more subtle and delicate, it was easy to see why The Will of a Million was initially overshadowed in the public eye, especially when the project remained silent for the remainder of 2014.

With the dawn of a new year, however, it’s time for The Will of a Million to lead us out into the woods and encourage us to gaze at the night sky. With Les Étoiles announced for digital release on February 10th, we have a great excuse on our hands to get lost in the sheer size of the universe around us and the beauty of the very moment in which we exist. To put it plainly, The Will of a Million’s Stephen Parker has written an album of lush black metal that takes strong queues from ambient and post-rock groups yet avoids falling into repetition or tedium. Knowing the balance between familiar sound and overdoing it takes a special set of ears, but Parker’s work as a recording engineer has given him not only an understanding of what sounds right, but what compositions will work well. While Parker himself engineered and mixed these songs, it seems fitting that the esteemed Jason Walton (Agalloch, Self Spiller, Especially Likely Sloth) aided in the mastering of Les Étoiles, as there is a certain Agallochian balance of beauty and intensity here.

The Will of a Million

The album’s opener, “A Fleeting Bliss,” is a perfect example of the many faces of The Will of a Million, both tender and feral. Crashing cymbals set the pace beneath guitars and synths that dance around each other in a beautiful whirlwind, evoking the same ethereal sensation I hear in bands like Lustre, yet halfway through the song takes a turn towards the darkness. I’ve come to view this song as the appropriate introduction to an album whose title translates to “the stars,” as I picture the opening as a gorgeous sunset leading into the true darkness that follows. True darkness, however, has true beauty. Even at its blackest moments, howling vocals and churning guitars fighting over blasting drum, The Will of a Million allows thin rays of moonlight to peek through from behind the clouds.

While the songs are certainly cohesive on this album, The Will of a Million makes a point to let each piece of music exist in its own space, ensuring no filler moments. Still, true highlights come in the well-crafted vocal drone experimentation of “03.825-01” and the towering beauty of “As We Float,” which I have the honor of sharing with you today. The longest track on the album, “As We Float” opens with ethereal chords and haunting wordless vocals, perhaps an unintentional nod to Parker’s fascination with progressive metal legends Opeth. Regardless of influence, he has clearly put in enough work here to prevent his love of certain sounds to fall short in terms of originality. The Will of a Million’s sound is decidedly its own, although as someone who has studied the project and its creator for the past year or so, it’s interesting to see the musical anatomy of this enchanting project. After the initial build, the song kicks into triumphant, blossoming black metal brilliance. There aren’t words that fully capture the feeling or sound, but even at its most furious moments, “As We Float” carries a peacefulness seemingly bred not of contentment but of acceptance of circumstances. The Will of a Million’s calm beneath the chaos is often its truest strength. In the Oregon wilderness, the night sky is unaltered by light pollution. Will you set aside your thoughts and lose yourself in the dark tapestry of Les Étoiles? The Will of a Million seems certain of it.