Author: T.K. White
Band: Marsh Dweller
Album: The Weight of Sunlight
Genre: Melodic/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Eihwaz Recordings
My introduction to the one-man band, Marsh Dweller, is rather peculiar; I was digging around on Metallum and stumbled across him and his sole demo, I found the guy on Facebook sent and asked him if he would know where to find a copy of the aptly titled “Demo” demo. He replied and said the demo was garbage and ended up sending me a copy of this album instead. Now, what I realized was that he sent me a copy of the album just days after it had been formally announced by Eihwaz Records and there were no track premiers, no album streams—nothing—yet I found myself in the peculiarly enjoyable situation of having a copy and for that I’d like to say thank you to John Owen Kerr.
As an album, the record is just as odd as my prefacing story, but in a really great way. It’s not pretentious “avant-garde” BS, it’s just an amalgam of different influences all making their presence known in quick succession. The overall backdrop for this album is black metal—plain and simple—but the shading and small details are much more unique. The riffs themselves have a strong atmoblack feel, but not atmoblack that is one guy, sitting in his bedroom, drowning in reverb writing songs about the cosmos after taking Astronomy 101 at the local community college. To me, the best equator would be saying that The Weight of Sunlight would be the twenty-first century’s Bergtatt. Granted there are a few key differences, but overall, I get a strong early-Ulver vibe from the acoustic passages, the natural ambience of a fire-crackling and footsteps, the deep, melodic riffs, and the all-encompassing warmth that the recording has to it.
With that said, what makes this record really stand out, oddly enough, is the lead work. In my limited experience, not a lot of black metal in this vein would so openly embrace lead-lines and solos as Kerr does and it works; however, the most interesting aspect of this record is how quickly the moods change to-and-fro from track to track. There first few tracks have the typical introspective mood you can expect out of modern black metal, but on the fourth track “Monumental Collapse” the mood completely does a 180 and has a sharp, aggressive, pissed-off feel to it. As strange as it may sound, I get undertones of Venom and Emperor on the track and I am not complaining one bit, reason being is that too many bands create entire albums where they rewrite the same song for the length of the record making it boring and monotonous, but this album changes itself up enough to keep the moods interesting and the songs engaging.
Unfortunately, as much as I like this album, I do have some complaints, albeit minors ones, but in the sake of transparency, they need to be addressed. Transitions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I just want better transitions. I do not mind the slow fade out into the next song or the next interlude, but it just happens too frequently and in cases like “Monumental…” fading into “Empty Light of Heaven” it’s just not my favorite. I would have rather had two or three minutes of running water samples as opposed to nearly four of babbling water mixing with a guitar interlude. Picky, I know, but I can’t help but want better transitions because they do appear on the record—like the last half of “Forks of the River”—just not enough for my taste.
At the end of the day, this is a really good record and even more impressive for being a debut. I mean, I am already looking forward and hoping for a second release out of Kerr’s project because Marsh Dweller takes everything that was originally cool about Cascadian black metal, removed the clichés and stigmas, mixed it with what sounds like the U.K. black metal scene, and then added dashes of Ulver and Ihsahn right were you’d want them. This album is definitely going to appeal to early Ulver fans, Winterfylleth, Amiensus, and Oak Pantheon fans.
Check ’em out here: https://marshdweller.bandcamp.com/