From the embers of Burning Witch, via projects such as Asva and Sarin, Edgy59 (Edgemont Martin) and G Stuart Dahlquist have risen again and are intent on once again breaking new ground. Whilst the title 10 Swords suggests some kind of blackened battle metal nightmare, this is an album steeped in atmospheric dread and tension. The Poisoned Glass deals in the kind of unsettling soundscapes and drones that would apparently be at home soundtracking grainy psychological horror movies.
Their roots lie in the outer reaches of metal and but the duo’s music has always blurred boundaries (or bulldozed them) and gone far beyond the expectations of just what metal is. When the pair played the stoner/sludge heavy bill at Desertfest earlier in the year, their set was one of the most brutal, elegant and fascinating of the weekend, primarily because they did not sound like any other band on the bill. With their live performances and this album they’re taking the genre down new paths and evolving it into nefarious forms.
It could be argued 10 Swords exists well outside of metal’s sphere, but it is there, its last vestiges can be found in Edgy’s screamed. roared and gurgled vocal lines which are most apparent on the track Verbatim. Whilst the lyrics in this song suggest history repeating itself (“you make me war like, like your father and his before”) The Poisoned Glass seem quite content to leave the past behind and explore new territory.
Dahlquist’s rumbling bass drones provide an ominous underpinning to Edgy’s electronic soundscapes. There’s a constant shifting in the bottom end, like a tectonic plate testing out the Richter scale that gives an air of uncertainty to almost all of these compositions, as if their very foundations are shaking and threatening to bring the whole thing down at any moment. Yet there are moments when the drones that the pair make almost feel comforting, but Edgy’s electronic interjections don’t allow for any introspection or soul searching. The brooding instrumental Eels for example thrums with a bass pulse that is quite hypnotic, and but sudden jabs of noise leap from nowhere, squalls of electronic drone which were once beautiful become more urgent and loud, and some kind of animalistic chatter begins to emerge from that chaos. It is within the instrumental tracks where the metallic vestigial tail drops from The Poisoned Glass’ compositions, but despite this evolution of genre, there’s still a feral aspect to them.
Plume Veil is perhaps a statelier affair, but still packs a punch. Exploring the concept of Man as destroyer and Woman as creator is nothing new, but slightly dusty ideas aside, it’s a genuinely innovative piece of work. The whole song feels cavernous and chilled; the tinkling synths hang over the bass drones like razor sharp icicles always threatening to drop on the unwary. It wouldn’t feel out of place on the soundtrack of The Thing. From here, they segue into Toil And Trouble, which starts seethes with menace and anger. Bizarrely, at times Edgy sounds a little like Roger Waters losing him mind as The Wall is constructed around him. As unhinged as his incantation is, just for a moment at the end of the song, there’s a build towards a beautiful climax that basks in positivity.
Returning to the gloomier end of the spectrum is Silent Vigil. Its origins as a solo bass work are evident as explores sub-sonic vistas with suprising elegance for such a forceful piece. It’s the only song here that really could be considered as comparable to the direction their band mates in Burning Witch, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, headed off in with Sunn O))), but still manages to cut a singular furrow. It’s a theme that runs throughout this album of beautiful but quite terrifying songs.