Best known as guitarist/vocalist for Californian noise-lords Neurosis, Steve Von Till has also released an extensive body of work away from from his main band, both under his own name and under the Harvestman moniker. Released to little or no fanfare in May 2000, As The Crow Flies was the first time Von Till stepped away from Neurosis and slapped his own name on the cover….and the results were uniformly stunning and surprising.
Anyone expecting the soulful sludge of his day job (Neurosis’ beautifully abrasive Times Of Grace had been released just one year prior) was going to be severely disappointed. A mostly acoustic affair – save for the occasional keyboards/samples – As The Crow Flies stripped everything back to just the man himself, his acoustic guitar and assistance from long term Neurosis collaborator Kris Force on viola and violin.
However, dig deep (and this is an album that goes deeper than most) and parallels can be drawn between As The Crow Flies and Von Till’s day job. One of the main tricks utilised by Neurosis is to batter the listener into submission with musical repetition and As The Crow Flies used a similar technique to great effect. With a sparse selection of repeated chords used to transfix the listener, songs ambled and cajoled with a delicate, mournful precision and it’s easy to find yourself utterly hypnotized by the droning continuance of such stripped-bare music.
Whilst songs such as “We All Fall”, “Remember” and “Midheaven” may be reasonably straight forward from a musical perspective, lyrically they were quite the opposite. One mans study of inner turmoil, delivered with the required pathos that one would expect from an elder statesman such as Steve Von Till, these songs induce intense introspection as their dark beauty enrapture the soul.
While not a ‘heavy’ album in the traditional sense, As The Crow Flies remains as bleak as they come and reeks of despair; a true work of art from a formidable artist. If you appreciate music that carries hefty emotional weight, then it’s time you (re)discovered As The Crow Flies; an outstanding solo album from an experimental metal icon.
Other albums covered in our Unleashed From The Vaults Series: