Stygian Bough Volume I — the upcoming joint full-length from doom-metal duo Bell Witch, a.k.a. Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, and Aerial Ruin, a.k.a. dark folk musician Erik Moggridge — has been long in the making. Moggridge has been collaborating with the band since 2012's "Rows (of Endless Waves)," his first appearance with Bell Witch, all the way to 2017's acclaimed Mirror Reaper LP, on which he contributed guest vocals and lyrics. But Stygian Bough Volume I isn't about guest appearances; it's a proper album created by the trio together in long-form collaboration. Due out June 26th and available for pre-order now, the five-track LP includes the lead single "Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)," which premiered back in April, as well as the 19-minute-plus epic "The Bastard Wind," which Revolver is proud to unveil right here right now.
The first song written for Stygian Bough Volume I, "The Bastard Wind" is mournful and majestic, a master class in slow-burning buildup, ebb-and-flow dynamics and cataclysmic catharsis. "Erik sent us the intro riff and I was immediately taken by it," Desmond recalls. "In all of our discussion regarding collaboration, I could never understand how Jesse and I were going to do anything that could compliment the Aerial Ruin style — it thrives on loneliness, and having bass, drums and organ complicates that. I'm pleased with the direction it went and I think it sets the tone well for the rest of the album that follows." Listen above.
Diving deep into the making of the song, Moggridge adds, "Soon after the guys approached me about doing a collaboration album, I recorded a demo that had sketches of the riffs and vocal melodies for the beginning and end of the song. I wanted to write something that would work as an acoustic Aerial Ruin-type song but could also be done as a loud, heavy Bell Witch style riff. The acoustic guitar part in the the first three minutes worked well for this and was great to write multiple vocal melodies over. It was also exciting to imagine what it would sound like as a Bell Witch riff with the hugeness of Dylan's tone and two handed style. It ended up working really well that way too and was beefed up by electric guitar, as well. Dylan's bass solo on the album in this section starting at 16:36 and going to the song's end is so beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the record. The notes he chose are just so sublime and bring the song to a perfect crescendo at the end.
"Also on that original demo was the vocal melody for the part that begins at 11:55 with the line 'deeds that bled away,' except I had it over this strummy acoustic guitar part. It was Jesse's idea to change that part to this massive hits and wrung-out notes underneath the vocals. We spent a long time getting this part right in the studio with all three of us playing it live. There was a jazz band in the studio down the hall who asked why we have a song with just one very loud note." He laughs.
"I originally thought that these parts might make up an entire song, but Dylan wanted to break up the more melodic ear candy material with tension building parts and came up with all the riffs in the songs middle with this in mind. The idea being the listener would be expecting the melodic stuff to continue but instead have to wade through all these edgy riffs first making the payoff bigger at the end. We ended up with a 10-minute journey into heavier and heavier material. Jesse did a great job building up the tempos that give that part this dynamic arch and gets almost mid-tempo before crashing down again. His death-metal vocals in that section really bring that part home, too."