Redwood Hill


Written by: AP on 13/11/2014 20:26:30

As if from thin air they emerged, Redwood Hill, carving their way into the heart of the Danish metal scene with a scattered series of convincing live performances in 2012 before unleashing upon us their astonishing debut album, "Descender" the year following. Given their blackened style of post-metal was a rare breed in a domestic culture whose embrace seldom extends outside of the classic, the comfortable; it was hardly a surprise, the rapidity with which Redwood Hill rose to prominence, claiming esteemed slots first at Roskilde Festival, and since at Copenhell ahead of much more established Danish metal acts. Whatever success they have reaped has come well deserved on the basis of their enthralling shows, and not least their prowess at writing unforgettable songs in a genre which is an acquired taste at best. As such, there is little purpose in witholding the fact that this second opus "Collider" continues in alike fashion, pushing the band's autumnal style even further.

Once the droning foundation riff of opening track "Microgravity" rolls in like so many avalanches, one rests assured that on this difficult second album, Redwood Hill have no intention of alienating their hard earned listeners. Everything about it feels familiar: the mournful tremolo, the lumbering rhythms, the harrowing snarls (those with an affinity for Hoest's frightening style should find them quite agreeable), the raw, organic production - and yet, as the song enters a characteristically tranquil instrumental passage at the halfway mark, Cody's Frederik Thybo folds into it with a beautiful, forlorn violin solo. I picture myself standing at the crest of an arctic tundra, beholding the barren allure of nordic nature when violent gusts of freezing tremolo begin whipping at me once again as the drumming intensifies and then grounds to a halt, an echo of a bass note the only guide in the darkness of my shut eyed imagining. It lasts only a heartbeat, until it becomes a ominous, monotonous pattern, patient strums of cold, melodic notes signalling the transition into "Wie ein Adler" (German for "Like an eagle"), roared entirely by vocalist Marco Stæhr Hill in his native tongue.

The slow, long winding introduction plays like an excerpt from the "Dead Storm" album by band's now defunct countrymen The Psyke Project, though the pulverising weight of the instrumentation and Hill's signature screams that rain down in its wake are still very much the Redwood Hill way. These contrasts between calm vastitude, epic melodies and calculated chaos for which "Wie ein Adler" is a fine exposé, are what Redwood Hill take pride in, and it is tempting to make the claim that on "Collider", they are executed with even more finesse than was the case on the preceding "Descender". On that record the only instance of clean singing came toward the end of "Dybbuk" (the distant refrains of "Like rocks into rivers, like trails in the sand" by guitarist Toby), but here, the intertwining of singing and screaming is much more intricate, thanks in no small part to the assortment of guest vocalists making their mark first on "Albedo" and later on "Cytherean". The collapse of the former into a stunning vocal harmony between Hill, Toby, Cody's Thomas Kaae, Stærosaurus' Andreas B. Stær and Before the Show's Laurids Smedegaard before another cascade of droning, resonant post-metal tumbles over; is nothing short of scintillating, and finds Redwood Hill well and truly separating themselves from the reins of convention.

It is, however, on the following colossos "Tabula Rasa" (the opening track to the b-side of the LP) that the album's definitive highlight materialises. Magnificent and carefully constructed, the song thrives on a dark, oppressive atmosphere - like some invisible demonic presence lingering in your vicinity; threatening, distressing, tormenting, but never delivering release, not even through death. Hill's anguished growls of "Please let me go!" have him sounding like a man caught in a waking nightmare as the instruments bathe in suffocating blackness from whence there is no escape. Mind you, the lack of release is not to be understood as the song never resolving, as its consistency, persistence, is an integral part of the concept. Ominous and haunting, its refusal to deliver a catharsis like so many of the band's other songs, reinforces this feeling of no hope or solace - just suffocating darkness; that Hill, I suspect, hopes to convey. That "Solace" is literally provided by the soothing tranquillity with which the following track is brought in, and even the spiraling melancholy of its conclusion (eerily similar to the crescendo in "Poseidon" off the previous record) feels like a much needed ray of light after the desolation conjured by "Tabula Rasa".

A no less epic conclusion to the album as a whole, "Cytherean" puts a strong lid on the proceedings, with the aforementioned ensemble of vocalists submitting in grandiose unison that "they will obey" at its ultimum. The only truly questionable thing about “Collider” is that a lot of the songs do tend to subscribe to a single formula, alternating between cold, clean picked notes and earth rattling bass; and louder, distorted sections of dual tremolo in similar arrangements. With the exception of "Microgravity" and the towering “Tabula Rasa”, no single song stands out, though that, I suspect, is not a product of the subconscious, but rather a deliberate choice by Redwood Hill, whose music never was, and never will be designed to reward the impatient. With their songs they hope to conjure a feeling, an atmosphere; and then stay in that feeling for the duration of a song, exploring it both through noise and through tranquillity. It's a challenging listen, but where it lacks in big, infectious hooks or melodies, it compensates with consistency, and an admirable adherence to an idea. That it does not score a 9 like its predecessor owes primarily to the fact that upon hearing "Descender" it shocked me, and now, almost two years later, "Dybbuk", "Poseidon" and "Tristesse" continue to haunt me - sensations not quite attained to the same degree here, despite the undeniable brilliance of the music.


Download: Microgravity, Albedo, Tabula Rasa
For the fans of: Amenra, The Psyke Project (on “Dead Storm”), Regarde les Hommes Tomber
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.11.2014

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