Corvus IV by StaghornRelease date: March 20, 2020
It is disturbing how often music with a dystopian plot actually seems to reflect modern day when aiming to predict a distant future. The title of fourth release Corvus IV is eerily familiar with Coronavirus (COVID-19) now sweeping the world. Whilst this tale is based on ecological disaster some of the emotion and worry can feel familiar when your way of living has been altered even if it is less dramatic than the tales of Staghorn. On its fourth chapter the music becomes the main narrative and it is claustrophobic, heavy, dark yet also hopeful and whilst a heavier edge may surprise old fans it will end up enthralling them and leaves you itching for more.
The spoken word story line which was ever present in previous releases is actually overshadowed by a darkening of musical and vocal delivery. It makes brief appearances to continue the previous tales on opener ‘Torch’ and closing song ‘Samsara’ as it puts to question the destruction of Mother Nature by man and the new battle for survival. Out with those short stints deep guttural screams are the main form of communication including the talents of Drew Speziale of Circle Takes The Square on ‘Rahula’. Although the scrams may sound like they wouldn’t fit a post-rock band it is also indicative of how the music has progressed and the darker edge delivers a nice diversion in the tales of past releases. In another twist the band has also released an instrumental version of the album with monologue stripped out so you can be fully fixated on the textured heavy music.
After the monologue introduction ‘Torch’ slithers into life with slow, thick rumbling drums and bass which battle a soaring guitar as it lifts the darkness before dropping into the only instrumental track ‘Lux’. There are some flavours of recent Russian Circles as the dark guitar riffs meddle with the drums on a heavy low end base before they burst away on a an uplifting post back metal ride which elevates into positive guitar notes and rich ringing cymbal crashes. ‘Rahula’ also has a far darker tone before epic closing track ‘Samsara’ encompasses all the sounds of old and new in its sprawling 12 minutes diving between the darkness and light. Here the post-rock base leads the listener through winding forest paths, sharp inclines and also delves to the farthest corners of post-metal.
This is a great progression from the band and it allows the story to live and grow but yet reflect on where it has been. Staghorn dreamt up a world where simply finding water to drink was a daunting task and here we are with toilet roll being the commodity in demand. I have no doubt that at some point in the future water scarcity will be the frightening present but Corvus IV plays as a warning to heed the notifications of science and to vary our lives accordingly. Hopefully the worlds enforced lockdown will give Mother Nature a bit of a breather so the real dystopian Staghorn tale is pushed further into the future.