‘II: For Mankind’
(Holy Roar Records, May 2016)
The unique music of this wonderful Welsh trio has been described by Holy Roar Records as “kaleidoscopic doom” and “doomloungejazz”. While the latter description refers primarily to one particular part of one song (more on that later), the former is an appropriate summary of the band’s dazzling approach to doom.
Even more so than on their debut album, Haast’s Eagled bring together an intriguing array of sounds, elements and influences into a miraculous maelstrom. Thundering, heavy-as-hell sludge doom, featuring growled (gurgled) vocals, goes hand in hand with extended moments of mellow reflection, epic choruses, echoes of stoner doom, pianos and… jazz.
It’s the soundtrack to a very weird dream, and the excellent production somehow allows it all to breathe naturally. Imagine Alice In Chains, YOB and Dead Can Dance engaged in a honey-drenched death-match on the Moon, and you’re halfway there.
When the band manages to bring these conflicting personalities together into a cohesive entity (which happens about 75% of the time, with the rest being a joyfully bleak muddle) then Haast’s Eagled become a colossal force to be reckoned with – and a doom metal proposition like no other.
Opening track ‘Pyaaz Bhonghi’ is a masterly lesson in aural bewilderment. Later, the 20-minute ‘Zoltar’ features stunning monastic-style singing, embellished with some clean vocals. Then comes the eagerly-awaited, and rather brief, lounge jazz section (it kind-of-works), before the song retreats into searing doom metal. ‘Zoltar’ is a beautiful study in solitude and sorrow.
And finally, the closing track ‘White Dwarf’ (not the one with the Sabbat flex-disc), seems comparatively conventional, almost disappointingly ‘normal’ in its elegant structure and notable lack of saxophones.
The band’s 2013 debut album promised greatness and now, three years later, Haast’s Eagled have reached their huge potential with ‘II: For Mankind’. Yes, there are times when you wish they’d just get on with it. Yes, there are moments when things seem to go a bit wrong. But this is a band with an ambitious vision and the creative intellect to pull it off. Love it.