Band: Owls Woods Graves Country: Poland Album: Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician Label: Malignant Voices Website:   Facebook Punk an...

Owls Woods Graves - Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician (2022)

Band: Owls Woods Graves
Country: Poland
Album: Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician
Label: Malignant Voices
Website: Facebook

Punk and black metal are often fused together, often from underground bands with battered production and short duration releases in their ballpark. From my perception, the two genres part ways on a first level the cleaner the sound gets, but black metal has always had punk elements even if its most basic forms, while the same doesn't hold vice versa. Owls Woods Graves' debut Citizenship of the Abyss, released in 2019, was a tango between these two genres with rather distinct changes from one another throughout the album, co-existing but not mixing into one solution, and it was a banger. They were not afraid to to employ some tremolo picking, nice clean vocals, typical punk lines, and all in all, biting and energetic tracks with nice transitions.

Another notable point to mention is the choice of aesthetics, which uses fantastically drawn black and white designs (courtesy of Robert A. von Ritter), with typical Old English inspired fonts on white worn out frames for the album title and band name. Now, again I sense this is like a combination of the old school, DIY black metal / punk approach for text on a cover, combined with a well-made and catered design instead, e.g. of an out of sorts photo collage. It was like that for their debut, and it's the same with Owls Woods Graves' second installment, Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician. These two covers alone can make me buy the albums in physical format just for their grimy beauty and it was certainly a good sign when I saw the news of a new Owls Woods Graves release, a band that is unlikely to show signs of divergence because they don't really have to compromise their sound for anyone.

Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician has a distinct difference compared to its predecessor, even though it's not such a surprising turnaround. M., frontman of compatriots Mgła, is now handling the bass and some vocals in Owls Woods Graves, along with already existing members E.V.T. and The Fall, and once again the record has been recorded / mixed / mastered with the help of Mgła, as they are all related to and around of a common suspect label like Malignant Voices. Once listening to it, one can definitely identify M.'s touches to the vocal work of Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician, which has now taken a slight turn towards black metal more than the punkish debut. Nevertheless, both elements are present and vibrant in this album.

Immediate nodding begins after a few distressed second introduction of the first track "The Entity", which hits hard and already shows the band playing slightly heavier than in Citizenship of the Abyss. Atmosphere and riffs are filthy, the sound is pleasant and it's an excellent opener to set the engine working for the band, which had me childishly celebrating about what I'm about to listen just from the first seconds of Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician. The album proves to have a marvelous flow between its tracks, which contain several nice twists and turns around the main genre structures that we would expect, and that's what makes it more interesting for me than the average black punk album I come across today. Much like in the movies, it's often anticlimactic to be able to predict a whole record by not even listening to it.

Distinct punk patterns emerge in pieces like "Bats in the Belfry", "Return of Satan", and "Antichristian Hooligan", which also feature chanting chorus singing that has been prominent in the genre since its beginnings. From these tracks, I thought "Antichristian Hooligan" to be the least compelling for me, but "Return of Satan" is pretty heavy and not limited solely to punk in its content. Owls Woods Graves now have song numbers in the mother tongue as well, with "Idzie Diabeł" (=here comes the devil) seeing the band playing more in middle-slow paced tempos and the final "Zobaczysz" (=you will see) giving a a dismal closure to the record.

Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician is not limited there. One of the most exciting moments in the album is the short but fierce "Rabies", a track straight from a war metal course book, which is also accurately placed third and makes an excellent case after the first two songs. And then, the black metal flavors are a bit scattered throughout the whole work, yet at "Obscure Monastery" and "At the Crossroads", melodic guitar lines would strongly remind of other current black metal bands of the Polish scene. Vocals and bass sound amazing in Secret Spies of the Horned Patrician, yet I would have preferred slightly more engaging drumming in the less cogent moments of the record, but that's not that much of a big issue in the end.

Owls Woods Graves pick up a genre combination that can be tormented with stagnation from its very definition, and manages to make an album that is a hell of a listen, and maybe even better than their previous work. I think I prefer some aspects of the debut more, like the textual work, but I'm glad they continue with the same cover art philosophy, and compose tracks that are not purely punk, not purely black metal, but something in between with a distinct touch of the musicians involved and the surprise egg that was "Rabies" for me. I could listen to a whole Owls Woods Graves release with tracks like that. All in all, listen to Secret Spies of the Patrician today.

Release date: January 25th, 2022

1. The Entity
2. Return of Satan
3. Rabies
4. Obscure Monastery
5. Idzie Diabeł
6. Bats in the Belfry
7. Antichristian Hooligan
8. At the Crossroads
9. Zobaczysz


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