On Stygian Bough Volume I, members Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of renowned doom duo, Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin. Genuine collaborations are rare yet these two found a way to become one, resulting in a hauntingly beautiful record. Today the trio have revealed details of the highly anticipated album alongside its ethereal first single, “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)”:
While Moggridge has been a part of Bell Witch’s sonic fingerprint on all their prior records, perhaps most notably for his vocals on their previous acclaimed full-length, Mirror Reaper, he’s now part of the very fabric that makes up the five, emotional and strikingly heavy songs that comprise Stygian Bough Volume 1.
The addition of guitar to the bass and drum-only dynamic came naturally as the threesome discussed potential models for their joint effort. Ulver’s unorthodox folk album Kveldssanger came up as did Candlemass’ mile marker Nightfall. But the real fuel to Stygian Bough Volume I was the Bell Witch track, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, which was not only Moggridge’s first appearance with Bell Witch but also a track that has deeply resonated with Desmond over the years. With the approach in place, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin collectively wrote five desolate yet mystical songs that defy categorization.
From the mournful “The Bastard Wind” and the crepuscular “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” to the monstrous “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” and the liturgical gloom of “The Unbodied Air,” Stygian Bough Volume I is an album of deep, dark undertows and careful respite.
The themes explored by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin were independently tackled from different angles but were mainly from similar spaces. Whereas Bell Witch plumbed the depths of purgatory—a place of atonement between life and death—across three full-lengths, Moggridge’s Aerial Ruin have centered on the loss of the self and the spiritual places the vacancy ultimately leads to. For Stygian Bough Volume I, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin topics of choice intersect and complement, continuing in spirit but with a broader vantage point where “Rows (of Endless Waves)” left off.
“Stygian Bough is a reference to the theme of The Golden Bough,” observes Desmond. “The book’s theme is centered on the rites of a temple in ancient Italy where slaves were transformed into kings by slaying he who reigned as such after successfully stealing the Golden Bough from the sacred tree within the temple. Within that notion, a different sort of slavery was brought upon the newly crowned king, as he must understand sooner or later that his fate would ultimately be the same as his predecessor. In short, the golden bough made a king out of a slave only to find they were now enslaved to a different sort of tyranny, always stalking them from the darkest shadows of their imagination. From this perspective, the “golden bough” is better understood as a deception casting darkness. Thus, Stygian Bough.”
Adds Moggridge: “They presented that song [“Rows (of Endless Waves)”] to me in a mostly instrumental form with the idea that it’s about a ghost trapped on rows of waves that can’t reach the land. I ran with this idea and started to think of the ghost of a king who, if he reached land could be reborn and rule again. The king is also a larger metaphor for humanity who rules over the planet and other species. On this new album our ghost upon the waves flees not towards the land but towards death. The narrative, as much as it exists, is loose and not linear and definitely stream of consciousness. There are cyclical and spherical qualities to the journey where death, desolation, and the spirit are reflected in myriad ways.”
Stygian Bough Volume I sees its release June 26 via Profound Lore Records. For pre-orders and additional information on limited pressings and exclusive variants, visit here. Stygian Bough Volume I was recorded and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Recording Co. in Seattle. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin then took the full-length to mastering ace Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service in Chicago. The result is a full-length of profound lows and delicate highs — fitting for Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin’s quiet/introspective and heavy/loud dynamic. As for the triumvirate’s next steps, they plan on touring in support of Stygian Bough Volume I when it’s safe to do so.