Crestfallen Dusk, a mostly one-man project hailing out of Tennessee, caught my ear with their unique country blues and black metal sound. It is a combination that has been touted by some other bands, but leans heavier into the blues rather than the country; however, the amalgamation concocted by Crestfallen Dusk is the most unique of its kind that I have ever heard. I say mostly one-man act because although there is a drummer, namely Sean Meyers, the majority of the instruments—those being the vocals, bass, drums, and keys—are played by one Ryan Clackner. He has a partner in Zac Ormerod who is listed as contributing to the lyrics and the mixing, both of which Ryan Clackner is also involved in.
This is not just a combination of genres that see the band playing one then the other (although that does also happen), but a more cohesive joining of the two genres, mixing them together so finely it is sometimes hard to untwine them. I find the combination fresh and exciting; I love the album, although I think it starts stronger than it ends.
The track names are great; a weird mix of depressive language blended with pastoral, “rural south of America” imagery. Case in point: The first track “Beneath the Cool Calm Soil” is both morbid and somehow comforting too. The track starts out with some twangy county lick, the music is full of swing, but as the over-distorted chords begin to play you start to hear the darkness creeping in. The song at this point sounds a lot like rockabilly but that changes very suddenly when the vocals enter. The raw, guttural screams are unintelligible but also mixed nicely. You can hear the vocals are abrasive and nasty but they sit well in the instruments and aren’t too hard on the ears. In general, the mix of the music is smooth despite the lo-fi distortion. During this section, the drums add a subtle double kick, enhancing the metal quality. Just after one minute, we get another country lick but this time it sounds slightly diminished; creepier. After a brief fermata, the lick from the start of the track returns only for a moment before kicking into tremolo chords and blast beats. Again, I must complement the production. The mix is heavy, dirty, and abrasive yet still smooth on the ears. Some soft keyboards can be heard creating ambient melodies in the background. Eventually, the blast beat abates, making way for another double kick stride, but the song still remains decidedly black metal. In the last twenty seconds, the drum stops grooving, hitting a few accents as the guitar picks the last few chords with keys fading off into the distance. This whole song is great, such a unique sound.
Track two, “The Blackness Come Creepin’ In”, starts with a part that would not be out of place on a Fleet Foxes album. In fact, my wife thought I was listening to them when I was playing this album in the other room a few days back. I love myself some good folk. Whatever comparison you might want to draw is irrelevant, as that is the nature of folk; the same goes for this mighty fine folk section. The chords picked in the intro seem mysterious and beautiful. Soon another guitar enters, playing more classic country parts. The vocals that enter are quintessential folk vocals, twangy with a hint of a wail, and excellently performed. The drums play a very linear classic folk groove and if it wasn’t for what came before or is to follow you might have already forgotten this is a metal album, but worry not, blast beats are on their way. Following another fantastic country lick, the band hits us hard with shrieks, shredded guitars, and blasting drums. I love the slight bend in the riff that gives it that country blues twang. The song slows down towards the two-minute mark becoming almost doomy, and atmospheric, the vocals a wash of white noise in the background. After another wistful pause, soft key melodies haunt the distance before returning to the country riff from the beginning of the track. What comes after is a mirror of the first part of the track. At this point, however, we are only just halfway through this monstrous epic of a track. Leading up to the midpoint, the intensity of the music grows, becoming almost primal. The song then moves into a section that is both harmonically rich and cerebrally confusing. The chords sound altered like the music is in a whole tone scale or some other similar non-traditional scale. The frenetic pace continues as the shredded lead guitar plays enticing melodies. The last section of the song sounds like it’s come straight out of a Stevie Ray Vaughan album except with horrific screams as vocals in the background. It tails off with some creepy e-piano and odd reversed sounds. Definitely one of the highlights of the album.
Track three, “Burn in Hell”, feels like it picks off where the last track left off with more blues rock in the style of ZZ Top, but once again with raspy screams permeating the mix. These are combined with some faint sung vocals. Double kicks are added, which gives the song a more aggressive quality after some spicy licks. As the song devolves into blasts and shreds once more, a hint of organ peeks out from behind the wall of noise. I have to once again complement the mix on this album, as it is heavy and aggressive but somehow so smooth on the ears. The song slows at 2:35 leading us back to the intro section and a repeat of what we just heard. At 3:40 the song shifts gears and sounds a bit like Queens of the Stone Age with some black metal dissonance mixed ramping into a solo.
This brings us to the first part of the album I’m not so hot on. The guitar solo. It just sounds out. I’m not sure if it is intentional; some of the solo is in key and some of it sounds very out-of-place, meaning that it doesn’t flow particularly nicely. The solo doesn’t go on for too long thankfully and we return to the insanity. This section has some interesting harmony, minor at times, but also altered or perhaps whole-tone sounding scales. Maybe I’m thinking about it too hard and it’s just chromatic. Whatever it is, I like it. The wash of metal noise continues unabated. Towards the end, we hear some clean lead arpeggios, initially only one but on each repeat, we hear more added but they sound like they are played only a semitone out from the original. The resultant sound is unsettling and ominous. The song sounds like it falls apart as it ends, the instruments slowing down and accenting different beats. It all ends with unintelligible distorted screams.
Track four, “Our Old Rotted Cabin” (love the title), has an interesting mix of the altered/whole tone sounds from earlier, bookended by blues rock riffs all layered with double kick and blasts. A nice combo of all the sounds the album harbors to this point. The track initially sounds a bit like Agalloch, but once the blues parts kick in all comparison is lost. I find the quality of this section to be obfuscating, almost like you are slowly going mad. As expected, we end up with blasts and tremolo. It’s here where the album starts to lose me a bit. As much as I adore the first three tracks, the last half of the album begins to feel much of the same with less of the catchiness of the first half. There are some cool bends and bluesy leads melded into the tremolo riffs, but otherwise, this song is a bit forgettable.
Track five, “On the Outside of Town”, is a song I don’t particularly like, it has a grunge quality to it. Maybe it’s my bias against grunge, but I find the start of the song very tedious; in fact, I find the entire song tedious. I don’t think it’s an objectively bad piece of music and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. It might be the horrible guitar solo or the monotonous, tiring pace of the guitar chords, but I just know I don’t enjoy it.
Although the final track of the album isn’t a bad one, I feel the formulae start to get a little tired. I often find the album losing my attention at this point. I think this might be to do with the similar way the songs are structured and how far in the background the vocals are. The use of very similar leads and guitar melodies, the predictable switching between country rock/blues and black metal. The black metal part is a little hard to differentiate and the blues sections are often more standout.
With all that said I do enjoy this album. I think it starts stronger than it ends. Despite some of my reservations, I find the idea is executed in a unique way. I most definitely recommend you give the album a listen.
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