Dark Castle - Spirited Migration

Last week, At A Loss Recordings released Spirited Migration, the first full length from Florida’s DARK CASTLE. At A Loss is an underground metal incubator. With almost no recognition, they’ve introduced us to bands like Black Cobra, Kylesa, Rwake, Minsk and Baroness. Many of these bands move on to bigger labels, and much notoriety. DARK CASTLE may follow that path, but we should not forget who brought them to us first.

DARK CASTLE could be promoted as a novelty act. As I have come to learn, this twosome is a couple, but the press releases I’ve seen say nothing about that. After listening to this album for a few weeks, I didn’t even know that there was a woman in the band, let alone that she was the primary guitarist. A decision has been made to let the music sell this group, and that’s the way it should be. Still, the emergence of women in metal has been one of the most exciting developments in this wave of metal. It has the potential to broaden audiences and sounds.

Spirited Migration is another great doom/sludge band out of the south, produced by Phillip Cope, guitarist/vocalsist for Kylesa. The album opens with a low end rumble, followed by a call to arms, and then the journey begins.  As you would expect from any good two-piece, this record is chock full of riffs, but Spirited Migration stands out for its atmosphere. The throbbing interlude between the “Awake in Sleep” and “Into the Past”, the spanish guitar of the title track, the judicious use of the china cymbal and delay effects, and the synths of “Weather the Storm” all play a part.

But the spoken words of “Grasping the Awe” put everything into perspective. For the most part, this is an instrumental album. When there are vocals, they seem to come from place far away, both in distance and time. The lyrics are for the most part unintelligible unless aided by the lyric sheet. But on this song, a female voice (that I at first wrongly assumed belonged to a guest) explains why words can actually devalue one’s experience:

The quicker you attach words to things people or situations the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes and the more deadened you become to the miracle of life that continuously unfolds within and around you...Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp which isn’t very much

Stevie Floyd provides a much needed response to critics that overemphasize the significance of lyrics and clean vocals. She also cuts to my struggle with whether I should even attempt to review records. A review is no substitute for a personal musical experience, uninfluenced by someone else’s perceptions.

The good news is that we can all soon personally experience DARK CASTLE in the flesh. They will be in Chinatown on June 20th for a free show at the Mountain Bar with IT's CASUAL and GORT. Stevie’s guitar setup is supposed to be a sight to behold.