Pyramids- “A Northern Meadow”

Pyramids- "A Northern Meadow"

Dear reader, somehow you’ve endured five posts of me rambling about the brilliance of Black Horizons‘ latest batch of releases. Whether it’s been complex and challenging noise, dub-infused darkwave, or churning microtonal black metal, you’ve held on brilliantly. Now that you’ve sat through this batch, it’s time to close things off by approaching A Northern Meadow, the highly anticipated and frequently discussed new release from experimental metal collective Pyramids. I’ll admit that, as I often do when I plan on writing about something, I’ve read no other press about this and I’m not sure how people feel about it other than being excited that Pyramids is back.  Still, this is a hard release to capture with simple words, so please forgive me if I tread territory somebody else has also visited in a review of this broad and beautiful album.

Without wasting too much time poring over lineup changes, it’s worth noting here that the addition of Vindsval (Blut Aus Nord) to this album seems to have colored things in a slightly familiar set of tones. Still, from what I’ve gathered this has more to do with a similarity in vision between the artists involved than an intended grasp at becoming some sort of Blut Aus Nord soundalike. Indeed, there’s quite a bit to distinguish this from the aforementioned group, but the programmed drums and some of the contorted, almost industrialized black metal riffs that fold in on themselves are a welcome quality that both groups share without using them to create repetitive or even similar songs.

What sets Pyramids apart from any would-be peers with this record is the group’s ability to weave something together that is equally human in its passions and mechanical in its detached and forceful nature. The overwhelming sensation of A Northern Meadow is the last cries of love or longing in the face of complete isolation and destruction. Folks who find themselves less prone to connecting on an emotional level with their music should still find this nuanced and well composed enough to tug at their sentiment, with the right degree of unhinged ferocity to appease those seeking dissonance. This isn’t a pity party of any sort, but to say that this isn’t one of the most emotive extreme releases I’ve heard this year would be a lie. This is primarily a sensation caused by the soaring yet occasionally distant vocals that vie for control over the dissonant swaths of hideous guitars, like a traveler hopelessly lost in a strange and uninviting wilderness.

Still, it’s not exclusively bleak. Songs like “Indigo Birds” and “My Father, Tall as Goliath” hold swelling synths and compositions that aren’t quite so harsh. The darkness may surround everything and the sheer size of the album never backs down, but when beauty and melody cut through with greater strength, it makes for a cathartic, victorious energy. I’d really love to take a gander at the band’s lyrics sheet for this release, as the scope of things on a musical level leads me to believe that we’re only seeing part of the picture, although sometimes the blurring of lines on this release makes it seem like it’s an intentional exclusion.

This album’s oceanic size and weight warrant repeated listens for clarity of listening, yet readers will be glad to find that even the first visit with A Northern Meadow yields enough beauty and chaos to make it worth the time. Albums that grow over time tend to be dear to many of us, but it’s refreshing that this one is instantly appealing before the inevitable growth and shifting. Do yourself a favor and check it out. If tapes really aren’t your thing and this series has made you lust for things you cannot have, I should also mention that Profound Lore is responsible for a CD edition of this album. Curious about Black Horizons’ fantastic packaging on this one? Check out the video below and grab this tape while it’s still available.