Sunrise Patriot Motion Condense Gothic Darkness Into a “Black Fellflower Stream” (Review)
For more than a decade, Will and Sam Skarstad have been restructuring black metal–recalibrating the relationship between austere and extravagant, balancing minimalism with maximalist explosions, and embracing their eccentricities to produce a more singular vision of the genre. In a time where the definition of black metal is more ambiguous than ever, they are two of its most forward-minded musicians. They continue to thrust the style in unforeseen directions.
Black Fellflower Stream, the brother’s first effort under the Sunrise Patriot Motion moniker, is yet another marvel of sonic deviation–joined by Pop. 1280's Andy Chugg on vocals, the record is an amalgam of black and heavy metals with goth rock leanings and a searing pop edge. It is the Skarstads' most pointed excursion to date, and a thrilling evolution of elements that their myriad of projects have long hinted at.
Sunrise Patriot Motion is the least black metal of the brothers' bands together, but the influence is still there. Where Yellow Eyes elevates the genre into an approximation of high art with sophisticated shapes and Ustalost traverses body and spirit through more holistic means, black metal is just one of many ingredients present within Black Fellflower Stream. "Warp of the Window" features knotty guitars not too dissimilar from modern day Yellow Eyes. "My Father’s Christian Humidor" is a primordial stew of black metal and goth that wouldn’t have sounded out of place during the early aughts and the advent of more alternative rock influences breaking into the genre. When left unchecked, black metal can be domineering, but its calculated dispersion throughout Black Fellflower Stream prevents it from overwhelming the other forces at work.
The record more comfortably resides somewhere between gothic rock and its rudiment genre, post-punk. The production has a feeling of mustiness, like the instrumentals are covered in dust and cobwebs as the guitars slink around, diverging from one another to create their own patterns in the thread. Will and Sam have always been a very dynamic guitar duo. Their natural chemistry makes for riffs that could stand on their own as they wriggle their way through the songs, but feel more nuanced when paired together. “Cruel is the Joke” sees them at their best, as the shimmering melodies they evoke unfurl scatter into a dozen different directions.
Black Fellflower Stream is a record where the lyrics tell a story, and Sunrise Patriot Motion are not afraid to lean into theatrics. The album takes place "in a single isolated field," and details a "man in the throes of mania [who] believes he is capable of digging a hole deep enough to reach oil." It is a concept rife for drama, and the band–particularly Andy Chugg–delivers. "I hear the angels singing underneath the soil," he maniacally caterwauls on "I Search for Gasoline." The character's festering insanity only grows as the album progresses, coming to a head in "Drippings of God" as he exasperatedly narrates his own demise with the final words, "I died for a taste."
The Skarstad brothers provide the ideal backdrop for this descent into madness, their compositions echoing the stumbling fragility of the character’s mental health. "Oil Dream Field" has one of the most euphoric melodies on the album, where every instrument unites with each other, working in tandem to create an undeniable hook that acts as the anchor of the song. Meanwhile "My Father’s Christian Humidor" sounds fractious with its fluctuating tempos creating a sense of unease as it jaggedly transitions from one part of the song to the next.
Experimentation has always been part of the Skarstads' musical grammar. Even at their most straightforward, their inherent mode of creation is to do something just left of center. Black Fellflower Stream is a testament to this, and the cohesion it displays despite its moving parts is an impressive feat. Once again, the brothers' compositional mastery proves to be peerless.
Black Fellflower Stream is out now.