Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale

Mythology is a powerful force, its influence being felt through millennia and even finding its way into the 21st century. One need only look at the numerous Scandinavian metal bands that use their national mythologies as a creative wellspring to feed their work. Even in today’s technology obsessed world, the old stories still hold a powerful fascination, and have a way of edging into our consciousness. In his famous work, “The Golden Bough”, anthropologist Sir James Frazer examined the mythology and symbolism shared by many religions, and which still influence language and thought right up to the present day. This cross fertilisation of ideas and beliefs and their incorporation into modern thinking – whether it be religion, art or music – provides new perspectives on old ways of looking at ourselves.

Eagle Twin’s new album, “The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale” does precisely that, following on as it does from the last album, “The Unkindness Of Crows”. The concept behind the album is that the crows from the previous album have battled with the sun; and burned, were returned to earth as blackened snakes. During the album’s exploration of the symbolism and mythology of the creature, the ancestral snake is once again transformed from lowly beginnings back into a bird. Eagle Twin are clearly a band with a roving interest in many different forms of expression and ideas – mythology, religion and poetry (a big influence on “The Unkindness Of Crows” was, apparently, “Crow” by Ted Hughes) – and display an enquiring intellect that underpins the music.

For a two piece (Gentry Densley on guitar and vocals, Tyler Smith on drums) they produce a big sound. It’s a sludgy, doom metal sound with guitars tuned down and an emphasis very much on heavy. Densley has a very neat vocal trick, as he is able to perform a kind of Tuvan throat singing, the effect of which is an incantation-like sound that sits well with the instrumentation; it’s almost a detuning of the human voice. This lower register puts one in mind of religious singing which brings yet another element to this already rich, doom mix. Densley, who was previously in Iceburn and also Ascend (with Greg Anderson of Sun O)))) is tuned low enough to supply the bass sound too. I won’t pretend to understand quite how he pulls it off, but I do know an expansive, full sound when I hear it, particularly when it is so much more than a duo really have a right to produce. The music is typically of a slow tempo -and anything that deviates from this really stands out and catches the ear – while the mix is dense, it is never impenetrable, but often requires effort to really appreciate it fully. 

The album is kicked off by “Ballad Of Job Cain Part I” and “...Part II” in suitably slow, detuned fashion. The songs have multiple parts, each coloured with details like the Sabbath-like riffing in “...Part I”, slower and slightly faster sections, becoming seriously sludgy in “...Part II”. This is also the song in which the throat singing really kicks off, an amazing sound that makes the vocals the perfect complement to the detuned instruments. Densley’s vocals touch various points of what might be considered the extreme range, always appropriate to the song and the overall mix. What’s also noticeable is the way that the band will use the music to echo the lyrical subject matter and build the drama. In “Horn Snake Horn”, for example, the snake is metamorphosing as he sheds his skin, and as the change happens, the music is building up to a climax of sound. “Epilogue: The Crow’s Theology” uses the guitar to create a drone (and similarly the throat singing of the vocals) before becoming a real solid groove; finally the listener is left with only the drums as they play out the last moments of the song, and indeed the album. 

The whole experience of “The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale” is one of heaviness, atmosphere, thoughtful lyrical matter and – at times – an almost religious feel to the music. The seven songs are recognisably doom, but doom with a difference and an overarching album concept to boot. Eagle Twin have assembled many elements which are allowed to coalesce into a very satisfying, thought-provoking album.

Ian Girle

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